Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Uber and Lyft said Friday that they will keep operating in California while courts decide if their army of freelance drivers qualify for employee status.

The two popular rideshare companies had threatened to pull their drivers off roads statewide after a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered them on August 10 to reclassify their drivers as employees. A state appeals court temporarily halted that ruling on Thursday.

Turning independent drivers into employees would require the companies to provide them with benefits such as paid leave and employer-provided health insurance. Such ‘gig economy’ drivers are contractors with no employee status.

Uber and Lyft claimed it was impossible for them to comply with the San Francisco judge’s orderm which required them to make the change within 10 days.

The two San Francisco-based companies cheered Thursday’s temporary reprieve. “Rideshare is ON,” Lyft said late Thursday on its website. Uber also welcomed the ruling.

The appeals court ruled that the companies can keep operating with drivers classified as independent contractors while the case winds its way through the judicial system. Oral arguments will be presented October 13, and Lyft and Uber could lose, prompting another round of brinksmanship.

Voters could rescue them in the end: A measure on California’s election ballots in November would exempt them from the gig-worker law. Proposition 22 would also overrule any pending litigation.

An Uber self driving car prototype is tested in San Francisco, California on October 7, 2016. (Dllu/Wikimedia on CC 4.0 License)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco favor forcing the companies to guarantee benefits to their contractors. A law requiring that shift took effect on January 1.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, who wrote the new law, tweeted: “Uber & Lyft can quit crying now…Shame on them with their scare tactics!” Gonzalez’s main source of support for the law came from labor unions, which see it as a launching pad to organize freelance drivers.

The mayors of San Diego and San Jose, two of the three largest cities in California, had said Wednesday that forcing Uber and Lyft to pull the plug in America’s most populous state would cause “irreparable harm upon hundreds of thousands of residents.”

“[W]e have serious concerns that this Friday, most of California’s nearly one million gig workers will lose their rideshare income when Uber and Lyft shut down their operations in the Golden State,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “This sudden disappearance of jobs and transportation options will only deepen the economic pain felt in our communities during this historic pandemic and recession.”

Faulconer is a Republican. Liccardo is a Democrat.

Uber and Lyft insist they are technology platforms, not transportation companies, placing them outside the reach of Gonzalez’s law. They have warned the alternative to shutting down if they lose in the California Cout of Appeal would be drastically cutting back services and dramatically hiking prices.

(Edited by Matthew Cooper and David Martosko.)



The post Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge appeared first on Zenger News.

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Uber and Lyft said Friday that they will keep operating in California while courts decide if their army of freelance drivers qualify for employee status.

The two popular rideshare companies had threatened to pull their drivers off roads statewide after a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered them on August 10 to reclassify their drivers as employees. A state appeals court temporarily halted that ruling on Thursday.

Turning independent drivers into employees would require the companies to provide them with benefits such as paid leave and employer-provided health insurance. Such ‘gig economy’ drivers are contractors with no employee status.

Uber and Lyft claimed it was impossible for them to comply with the San Francisco judge’s orderm which required them to make the change within 10 days.

The two San Francisco-based companies cheered Thursday’s temporary reprieve. “Rideshare is ON,” Lyft said late Thursday on its website. Uber also welcomed the ruling.

The appeals court ruled that the companies can keep operating with drivers classified as independent contractors while the case winds its way through the judicial system. Oral arguments will be presented October 13, and Lyft and Uber could lose, prompting another round of brinksmanship.

Voters could rescue them in the end: A measure on California’s election ballots in November would exempt them from the gig-worker law. Proposition 22 would also overrule any pending litigation.

An Uber self driving car prototype is tested in San Francisco, California on October 7, 2016. (Dllu/Wikimedia on CC 4.0 License)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco favor forcing the companies to guarantee benefits to their contractors. A law requiring that shift took effect on January 1.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, who wrote the new law, tweeted: “Uber & Lyft can quit crying now…Shame on them with their scare tactics!” Gonzalez’s main source of support for the law came from labor unions, which see it as a launching pad to organize freelance drivers.

The mayors of San Diego and San Jose, two of the three largest cities in California, had said Wednesday that forcing Uber and Lyft to pull the plug in America’s most populous state would cause “irreparable harm upon hundreds of thousands of residents.”

“[W]e have serious concerns that this Friday, most of California’s nearly one million gig workers will lose their rideshare income when Uber and Lyft shut down their operations in the Golden State,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “This sudden disappearance of jobs and transportation options will only deepen the economic pain felt in our communities during this historic pandemic and recession.”

Faulconer is a Republican. Liccardo is a Democrat.

Uber and Lyft insist they are technology platforms, not transportation companies, placing them outside the reach of Gonzalez’s law. They have warned the alternative to shutting down if they lose in the California Cout of Appeal would be drastically cutting back services and dramatically hiking prices.

(Edited by Matthew Cooper and David Martosko.)



The post Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge appeared first on Zenger News.

When Doves Fly: Rare Bleeding-Heart Birds Head for Freedom

When Doves Fly: Rare Bleeding-Heart Birds Head for Freedom

A conservation effort to breed rare birds known as bleeding-heart doves is being hailed as a success.

Ten rare birds that were bred and raised at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore have been sent back to their native Philippines as part of a breeding program that started in 2012. The park says it now has a total of 60 bleeding hearts from a breeding program that began with just the two pairs of the birds.

The 10 birds that were repatriated to the Philippines on Aug. 20 were housed in crates and made the four-hour flight on a transport plane. Prior to that, they had been quarantined for a month and put through a variety of health checks. After another month’s quarantine in their new home, they will be released back into the wild in a protected area on their native Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines.

The handover was made official when the Filipino ambassador to Singapore, Joseph del Mar Yap, received the birds from park officials.

Luis Neves, director of zoology at the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “This repatriation demonstrates the critical role that zoological institutions play in the conservation of threatened species, and we are proud to play our part. Under human care, we provide the animals with a safe environment, alongside high standards of care, welfare and world-class healthcare, to establish and propagate assurance colonies.”

Extensive medical tests were conducted on the birds to deem them healthy prior to the export. (Wildlife Reserves Singapore/Newsflash)

 

Dr Ellen Rasidi, veterinarian at Jurong Bird Park’s Avian hospital drawing blood from one of the Luzon bleeding-hearts prior to their month-long quarantine in Jurong Bird Park’s quarantine facility. (Wildlife Reserves Singapore/Newsflash)

 

The 10 Luzon bleeding-hearts were crated and transported to make the four-hour flight from Singapore to Manila. They will undergo another month-long quarantine under the care of the DENR of the Philippines before the agency determines a release of the birds to a protected area on their native island of Luzon. (Wildlife Reserves Singapore/Newsflash)

The ultimate goal, Neves adds, is “to be able to help strengthen populations in the wild when there is a need for it. This is just the beginning because we hope there will be many more reintroductions to come.”

The dove – whose name is derived from what appears to be a bleeding red heart on its white breast plumage — is a popular pet, which makes it a target of poachers. Coupled with a loss of habitat, the Luzon dove has a “near-threatened” status in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

The birds avoid human contact and spend most of their time feeding on the ground in the rain forests of central and southern Luzon, as well as in the nearby Polilo Islands in the Philippines. In addition to the Luzon birds sent back to their natural habitat, there are four other species of bleeding-heart doves, three of which are on  environmental groups’ “critically endangered” lists. Though widely held to be undergoing a population decrease, their total numbers are not known, in large part because of their aversion to being seen.

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Stephen Gugliociello)



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Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Was ‘Not a Spy,’ Claims His Lawyer Dershowitz

Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Was ‘Not a Spy,’ Claims His Lawyer Dershowitz

Jeffrey Epstein was not a spy or an intelligence source, says famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

The longtime Harvard Law School faculty member was Epstein’s attorney in 2008 and negotiated a plea agreement that stopped the federal government from investigating Epstein. He was the subject of an FBI probe for allegedly soliciting paid sex from teenaged girls and transporting them across state lines for prostitution and other related offenses.

The plea deal, which covered Epstein and all his alleged accomplices “known and unknown” to authorities, was so sweeping that it provoked theories that Epstein was working for a U.S. or foreign spy service—or that he at least was a valuable intelligence source.

Dershowitz spent months with the accused pedophile and said in an interview with Zenger News that all the speculation was wrong.

Epstein pleaded guilty to two felonies in 2008 in exchange for a relatively light 18-month jail sentence and immunity from future prosecution for offenses committed in 2008 or earlier.

Dershowitz said in the interview that he was Epstein’s lead negotiator with U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Alexander Acosta, and would have known about any ties between Epstein and any spy agencies.

And he said he would have used those ties as leverage if it were true.

“Believe me, I would have known about it,” he said. “I would have used it to my advantage and to his advantage.”

Dershowitz said he has negotiated plea deals in the past for clients who intelligence agencies consider indispensable. But those sorts of connections “never came up during any of our negotiations.”

“Let me tell you why that couldn’t possibly be true. If he had any intelligence connection, the first person he would have told that would be his lawyers,” Dershowitz told Zenger in a wide-ranging videotaped interview that lasted nearly 45 minutes.

“I would have gone to the government and said, you know, ‘He’s an intelligence agent. Don’t prosecute him,’”

Rumors about Epstein’s supposed connection to intelligence agencies continued to swirl after his August 10 death, which New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled a suicide.

Much of the speculation pointed to Acosta, who made the unconventional plea deal in 2008.

Former Vanity Fair journalist Vicky Ward said an unnamed former White House official told her that when President Donald Trump’s transition team interviewed Acosta for an appointment as secretary of labor, the former federal prosecutor had hinted that Epstein was connected to important intelligence work.

While preparing to face a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate, Acosta told Trump officials not to worry, saying he had been told not to intervene and be tougher on the former financier. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” Acosta said, according to Ward’s source.

U.S. Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta poses for a photograph. (U.S. Department of Labor/Shawn T. Moore)

Ward’s account appeared in the Daily Beast, but she never named her source or provided documents or other evidence to support her version of events.

Dershowitz flatly dismissed that uncorroborated account.

“I don’t know where Acosta got that from,” he said. “I can’t imagine anybody would use Jeffrey Epstein as an intelligence operative, but who knows?”

Dershowitz didn’t address a book released four months after Epstein died, in which a self-described former Israeli spy says Epstein was an intelligence asset, and that he was his “handler.”

Ari Ben-Menashe made his claims in “Epstein: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” whose three authors included a former vice president of American Media, who oversaw the tabloid magazines Us Weekly, OK!, Star, In Touch, Life & Style, Closer, The National Examiner, RadarOnline.com and The National Enquirer.

Ben-Menashe said Epstein and his longtime girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell ran a “honey trap” to lure powerful men by arranging sex with young girls and then blackmailing them with hidden-camera videos. Epstein and Maxwell “would just blackmail people like that,” Ben-Menashe told the book’s authors.

He also claims to have been the Mossad handler for Ghislaine’s father, Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991. Maxwell was a publishing magnate who later won a seat in the British Parliament. Later, he was accused of misdirecting millions of pounds from his own company’s pension funds.

After Maxwell’s yacht, the “Lady Ghislaine,” arrived at a Spanish port without him in 1991, his body was found in floating in the Atlantic Ocean near the Canary Islands. That death, ruled a suicide, is also sheathed in speculation and mystery.

Ben-Menashe offered no documents or other witnesses to support his account.

Dershowitz said he does not doubt Epstein had connections in high places. He cited a dinner party thrown by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, where the guests included Dershowitz and his wife, as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton.

“The phone rang—he [Clinton] was president at the time—and he walked off with the phone and spent probably 15 minutes talking to somebody. I didn’t know who it was,” Dershowitz said. “And then he brought his phone over and said, ‘Hey Alan, somebody wants to say hello to you.’ ”

“And he hands me the phone, and it’s Jeffrey Epstein.”

“So clearly he [Clinton] had some relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. We know that he traveled, Clinton traveled on Epstein’s plane. Not to the island, but to charitable areas, I think in Asia and maybe Africa, raising funds for the Clinton Foundation,” Dershowitz said.

“Everybody had relationships with Epstein.”

(Edited by David Martosko.)



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Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

The developer of hugely popular video game Fortnite dared Apple and Google to ban the game from their app stores.

The tech giants did. Epic Games’ next move: File antitrust lawsuits.

At its core, the fight is over how users pay for things hosted through the major platforms. Epic introduced a way for players to purchase virtual currency directly and more cheaply, skirting the tech companies’ payment systems. Apple and Google then yanked Fortnight, which is free but allows players to make in-app purchases, from their platforms. Both companies collect a 30% commission from in-app revenue purchases in games and said Epic’s direct payment system violated their developer guidelines.

“It’s potentially a very big case. For Apple, having this App Store model has been a huge source of revenue,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director at Open Markets Institute. “A lot of money is at stake.”

Vaheesan doesn’t expect a result in either case for years because of the complexity of antitrust cases.

Epic Games seemed ready for the Aug. 13 bans, filing the lawsuits the same day and launching a #FreeFortnite social media campaign.

The developer alleged Apple is unlawfully operating a monopoly because the iPhone maker does not allow third-party app stores on its platform.

“Apple completely bans innovation in a central part of this ecosystem, namely, any app that could compete with Apple for the distribution of apps in iOS. Through its control over iOS and through a variety of unlawful contractual restrictions that it forces app developers to accept, Apple prevents iOS users from downloading any apps from any source other than Apple’s own storefront, the App Store,” the complaint against Apple said.

Epic Games became a multibillion-dollar company, in part, because of the opportunities Apple made available to it, lawyers for Apple said in court documents filed Friday.

“When Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy,” Apple’s lawyers said. “Relief under these circumstances is not available under the law.”

Epic Games made similar allegations against Google.

“Google has eliminated competition in the distribution of Android apps using myriad contractual and technical barriers. Google’s actions force app developers and consumers into Google’s own monopolized ‘app store’ — The Google Play Store,” the lawsuit said. “Google uses this monopoly power to impose a tax that siphons monopoly profits for itself every time an app developer transacts with a consumer for the sale of an app or in-app digital content.”

The game is still available on Android but users are not able to download it via the Google Play Store because it violates the company’s policies, according to Google spokesman Dan Jackson.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” Jackson said in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

The hugely popular Fortnite has as many as 350 million registered users, according to consumer and business insights firm Statista. Players can team up to save the world or battle as many as 99 other users in a battle royale, or create their own worlds and batttlegrounds via the game’s create mode. Its characters’ dances have become a cultural phenomenon, with children and celebrities alike adopting the steps in videos on social media and during professional sports games. Players use in-game currency, known as V-Bucks, to buy in-game items, character customizations or a “Battle Pass” that includes an array of in-game items and content.

Epic Games is not requesting monetary compensation from either company, according to the lawsuits. Instead, it’s asked for injunctive relief against the alleged anticompetitive practices.

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



The post Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish appeared first on Zenger News.

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

The developer of hugely popular video game Fortnite dared Apple and Google to ban the game from their app stores.

The tech giants did. Epic Games’ next move: File antitrust lawsuits.

At its core, the fight is over how users pay for things hosted through the major platforms. Epic introduced a way for players to purchase virtual currency directly and more cheaply, skirting the tech companies’ payment systems. Apple and Google then yanked Fortnight, which is free but allows players to make in-app purchases, from their platforms. Both companies collect a 30% commission from in-app revenue purchases in games and said Epic’s direct payment system violated their developer guidelines.

“It’s potentially a very big case. For Apple, having this App Store model has been a huge source of revenue,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director at Open Markets Institute. “A lot of money is at stake.”

Vaheesan doesn’t expect a result in either case for years because of the complexity of antitrust cases.

Epic Games seemed ready for the Aug. 13 bans, filing the lawsuits the same day and launching a #FreeFortnite social media campaign.

The developer alleged Apple is unlawfully operating a monopoly because the iPhone maker does not allow third-party app stores on its platform.

“Apple completely bans innovation in a central part of this ecosystem, namely, any app that could compete with Apple for the distribution of apps in iOS. Through its control over iOS and through a variety of unlawful contractual restrictions that it forces app developers to accept, Apple prevents iOS users from downloading any apps from any source other than Apple’s own storefront, the App Store,” the complaint against Apple said.

Epic Games became a multibillion-dollar company, in part, because of the opportunities Apple made available to it, lawyers for Apple said in court documents filed Friday.

“When Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy,” Apple’s lawyers said. “Relief under these circumstances is not available under the law.”

Epic Games made similar allegations against Google.

“Google has eliminated competition in the distribution of Android apps using myriad contractual and technical barriers. Google’s actions force app developers and consumers into Google’s own monopolized ‘app store’ — The Google Play Store,” the lawsuit said. “Google uses this monopoly power to impose a tax that siphons monopoly profits for itself every time an app developer transacts with a consumer for the sale of an app or in-app digital content.”

The game is still available on Android but users are not able to download it via the Google Play Store because it violates the company’s policies, according to Google spokesman Dan Jackson.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” Jackson said in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

The hugely popular Fortnite has as many as 350 million registered users, according to consumer and business insights firm Statista. Players can team up to save the world or battle as many as 99 other users in a battle royale, or create their own worlds and batttlegrounds via the game’s create mode. Its characters’ dances have become a cultural phenomenon, with children and celebrities alike adopting the steps in videos on social media and during professional sports games. Players use in-game currency, known as V-Bucks, to buy in-game items, character customizations or a “Battle Pass” that includes an array of in-game items and content.

Epic Games is not requesting monetary compensation from either company, according to the lawsuits. Instead, it’s asked for injunctive relief against the alleged anticompetitive practices.

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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