Canada and the United States Argue Over Lumber and NAFTA

The softwood lumber dispute between the United States and Canada is just one trade argument that seems like it’s going to take a few years to sort out.

President Donald Trump announced this Monday that there will be countervailing duties of up to 24 percent on any of the softwood lumber brought from Canada. In response to this, Cana threatened legal action. The last time the United States and Canada had a spat over softwood lumber it lasted from 2001 to 2006.

Yet many say that this won’t be easily solved for either side. Duties aren’t able to be appealed until they are finalized. While that is taking place, it will cost an extra C$500,000 ($370,000) a month for just one Canadian mill, and that number could be more.

The next thing the U.S. will most likely do is take anti-dumping duties. A decision on that will take place sometime around June 23rd whereas the finalization of the duties won’t happen until January of next year.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, made a statement on Wednesday saying that Canada believes the next logical step would be toward a settlement. Yet it seems she the first minister to actually make a step toward legal action against the lumber issue. Freeland told Bloomberg, “I would say to my American friends: Be nice to your clients.”

She also seemed pretty confident that any legal action taken would swing their way. She said that, “as has been the case every single time in the past, we’re going to win.”

It was just last week that Trump vowed to fight Canada’s dairy tax. This furthered the tension between countries as the U.S. announces a 90-day notice to begin the discussion about the North American Free Trade Agreement. That negotiation looks like it will run into Mexico’s presidential election in 2018, along with the U.S. midterm election soon after, and the Canadian election due a year later.

Yet it seems that our northern neighbors are at a loss as to what to do. It would seem that Canada is thinking of proceeding with some type of aid package. Navdeep Bains, who is Innovation Minister told a source that “There’s a range of options that are being discussed right now.”

Not all of the provinces agree, however. Ontario announced it has new funding for logging road construction and needed the federal government to offer it a loan. There’s also British Columbia Premier, Christy Clark, who warned that making any type of hasty response was not a good idea. Clark said that “Unfair subsidies to the B.C. industry could really jeopardize our position in court.”

Quebec, which has over 60,000 people working in the forest-product industry, is starting loan programs and guarantees. The aid package would allow as much as C$300 million for a short term.

All this has been a long time coming. It isn’t something that has just recently happened between Donald Trump and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When it came to Canada and the industry, U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman says that “The Obama administration was essentially acting as a go-between.”

The Canadian government held its tongue in regards to what its next steps would be. Former U.S. ambassador, James Blanchard, however, says that “Canada always wins these.”

It doesn’t seem that any sort of deal will be happening in the next year though. During a call with Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau “refuted the baseless allegations” that had been brought on by the U.S.

This measure won’t favor the United States at all. In fact, it could raise the cost of homes in the United States and even get rid of over 8,241 full-time jobs in the United States.

Young Man Gets Two Years Jail for Hacking Xbox Live

What happens when you create a program that allows you to make 1.7 million attacks on Xbox Live, Minecraft, and TeamSpeak? A young man from the United Kingdom found out the hard way and is going to spend up to 2 years in jail for it.

The teenager in question is Adam Mudd. He created Titanium Stresser when he was just sixteen. After creating the program that performed millions of attacks, he sold his creation to random cyber criminals. That earned him over £386,000 ($400,000).

Mudd is twenty now and has pleaded guilty to the charges against him. Those charges include one count of committing unauthorized acts with intent to impair the operation of computers; one count of making, supplying, or offering to supply an article for use in an offense contrary to the Computer Misuse Act; and one count of concealing criminal property.

The judge presiding over the case even added that he wouldn’t lessen Mudd’s sentence even though Mudd’s lawyer requested it.

Ben Cooper, Mudd’s counsel, argued that his client was “sucked” into the world of cyber crime and that his actions were a result of the bullying he received. Cooper even went as far to say that Mudd was “lost in an alternate reality.”

Yet the judge wasn’t believing any of that. Judge Topolski told Mudd that he was “entirely satisfied that you knew full well and understood completely this was not a game for fun.” The judge even went on to say that Mudd was aware of the amount of money his software would make him and preceded to use it for such purposes.

Mudd performed over 594 DDoS attacks against more than 181 IP addresses throughout the months of December 2013 and March 2015. One of the games that were targeted by Mudd’s program was RuneScape which received over 25,000 attacks. The publisher of the game says it spent over £6 million ($7 million) to prevent the attacks.

Some sources say that during the hearing Mudd “showed no emotion” as they sent him off to an institution for young offenders.

FalseGuide Malware Sneaks into 600,000 User Phones Through Google Play Store

Android users might have put themselves in danger and not even know it. It’s estimated that over 600,000 users accidentally downloaded malware from Google Play. The malware, once downloaded, attempts to create a botnet which then brings fraudulent mobile adware and earns money for the cybercriminals responsible for the malware’s creation.

Cybersecurity researchers at Check Point discovered the sneaky malware and named it FalseGuide. The malware is hidden within over 40 fake companion guide applications for app games like Pokemon GO and FIFA Mobile. Check Point also found that the oldest of the malware was put on Google Play around February 14th of this year.

What makes things worse is the fact that several of the apps have been downloaded more than 50,000 times. It’s also believed that over 600,000 android user mistakenly downloaded this malware thinking it was a guide for their games.

But this isn’t the first time Google Play has been harboring some bad bugs. In fact, other malware like Viking Horde and DressCode tried to create Android botnets just as FalseGuide is doing now.

What happens is that the FalseGuide malware attempts to create faulty mobile adware. It will download and display what appears to be legitimate pop-up adverts with the purpose of bringing cash to its creators through ad display. Once it’s been downloaded, the FalseGuide malware will then request admin permission. This allows the malware to ensure that it cannot be deleted by the user.

That’s one way to tell that an app is up to no good.

But this isn’t known when it uploads itself to Google Play. That’s the main point of the malware’s creation is go in undetected. The only time it is suspected as fraudulent is after it has been downloaded into the user device, and the user has given it admin permission.

After it’s been installed into the device, the malware will then send notifications with the name like “Guide for Pokémon Go.” It has already registered itself to Firebase Cloud Messaging which is a cross-platform service that gives the creators permission to send these notifications.

The use of Firebase is what the FalseGuide malware depends on in order to receive additional modules and download those to the user’s device. FalseGuide’s pop-up ads will almost always be out of context and will use background service that starts the minute the infected device boots up.

Yet it is not just making money through ads that the malware developers can use FalseGuide for. In fact, it can receive other instruction modules from the command-and-control server. Those instructions can have the malware create botnets to root the device, conduct a DDoS attack, or even sneak into private networks.

The real question is who is behind the creation of the FalseGuide malware? It is suspected that the app originated from Russia due to the fact that they were submitted under Russian name of two fake developers—Sergei Vernik and Nikolai Zalupkin—but Russian-speaking researchers say that the latter is clearly a false name. So there’s really no telling who created it.

It is obvious why they chose Google Play apps for their target audience. The games are very popular and generate a large audience. There’s also the fact that the apps do not need much when it comes to features and development, so making them is rather easy.

Check Point told Google back in February that it had an unwanted visitor. Google then quickly removed the malware from the Play Store. Yet even after the malware was removed, its creators didn’t seem to give up. They kept uploading more malware apps into the Play Store around April. Once again Check Point notified Google who had the malware removed once again.

A Google spokesperson commented on the matter saying that the company is always “making improvements to our system.” Google’s spokesperson also wanted users to know that the company takes threats like this one very seriously and “tries to take immediate action whenever a questionable app is brought to our attention.”

FalseGuide has once again been removed from the Google Play Store, but it’s possible that traces of it still survive due to the vast number of installs it’s had since its creation. While Google, and companies like it, do everything in their power to protect the billions of its users, malware like FalseGuide will always find a crack in the armor to slip through.

Trump Butts Heads With Canada Over Dairy Tax

Some might be worried about the fights being started overseas but what about the one right in our own back yard? On Tuesday, President Trump attacked Canada about their tax on ultra-filtered milk. It wasn’t long until Trump took to Twitter.

It was just last week that Trump made comments on the dairy issue. He called it a “disgrace” and even went as far as to blame the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump stood up for dairy farmers saying, “What they’ve done to our dairy farm workers is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace.”

Yet this issue about milk tax is just one of many issues that Trump has with the free trade agreement. He made his feelings about the free trade agreement known when he rallied against it during his campaign.

So, what is his plan? The president said on Monday that Canada can expect new tariffs. Trump and his administration say that they plan on placing new tariffs on softwood lumber that goes from the United States into Canada.

Which his reaction isn’t really all that surprising. Yet how much is this tariff going to be? Well, the Department of Commerce says that a “countervailing duty” of 3 to 24 percent would be imposed on Canadian lumber exporters.

Wilbur Ross is the Commerce Secretary and says that there could be at least $1 billion duties on softwood lumber. He says that with that large of an amount it would be a “bad week for U.S.-Canada trade relations.” Of course, Canada’s dairy tax is to blame for this harsh move.

What does Canada think about all this? Well, the country made a statement on the issue Monday, and it doesn’t seem like they are going to take things lying down. The spokesperson said that Canada will “vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, including through litigation.”

Tesla Makes Recall on 53,000 Model S and Model X Vehicles

Hyundai and Kia aren’t the only automakers issuing a recall for vehicles. Recently, Tesla Motors issued a global recall from some of its Model S and X cars for a problem with the parking break. While earlier in the month Hyundai and Kia said they’d have to recall over 1.4 million vehicles in Canada, Europe and the U.S., Tesla says that only 53,000 vehicles are to be recalled.

The vehicles that fall under the recall are those that were manufactured during the span of February to October 2016. Yet even though only 2 percent of the 53,000 vehicles were affected by the defect, the electric car making is pulling all the vehicles just to make sure.

Currently, there has been no report of any accidents of injury due to the parking break default.

The company made a statement explaining that in the Model S and the Model X there is a “small gear” in the parking break that could possibly have been “manufactured improperly by our third-party supplier.” If the gear breaks, the parking break would prevent the car from moving but be stuck in place.

Testa says that drivers are “safe to continue regular use of your vehicle” and that so far there have been no known reports of any parking breaks in either model failing. Yet it was just a few years ago, back in 2013, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Tesla’s Model S a 5-star safety rating. The administration said that Tesla’s vehicle “set a new low record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants.”

But two years later in November of 2015, Tesla recalled over 3,000 of the Model S vehicles because of an issue with the seat belt connectivity.

Last year, Tesla made 83,922 cars including both the Model S and Model X. It was also earlier this week that the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said that the company would release its electric articulated lorry sometime in September. He also noted that an electric pick-up truck would be coming sometime in the next two years.

It has been stated by Musk that the company has been wanting to expand its manufacturing beyond cars. Yet even though this would seem like a good direction, analysts are worried that Tesla might not be able to meet the demand for its current projects.

This is believed because of the Model 3, which is a more mid-sized vehicle, already has over 400,000 pre-orders. That amount is far more than the company can make in a year. When Tesla contemplates expanding its vehicle output it should take in account the competition from larger automakers like General Motors who had the electric Chevy Bolt.

Apple Wants to Save the Planet by Using Recycled Materials

Since Apple released its new environmental report, the company says it’s going to do what it can for the good of the planet. It seems like it was only last year that Apple bragged about all the money they saved in recycling. That amount included the $40 million it saved in re-used gold from older devices. Yet this year the company says that it plans to change the way it uses raw materials in the devices it makes.

With its new idea, Apple has hopes that it will be able to use only recycled materials to create future products. Yet there’s still quite a lot to be done if Apple wants to even start this project. First, the company has to find a way to make sure that used iPhones come back to the company instead of ending up abandoned in the junk pile. The closer the company gets to using recycled parts, the better things will be for all iPhone users.

Apple also has strong faith in its restoration of materials. The company has Liam robots that are capable of taking apart over 2.4 million iPhone 6 models per year. The line that possesses the Liam robots are capable of salvaging 1,900 kg of aluminum for every 100,000 phones that are disassembled. The company has also, in fact, built Mac Mini units with the recovered materials taken apart by Liam.

It wasn’t too long ago that Greenpeace made it embarrassingly known that companies like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, ASUS, and Acer use coal and gas power to run their servers. Therefore, Apple wasn’t afraid to make it known that its data centers are completely renewable. This means that things like FaceTime, iMessage and Siri are running on 100 percent renewable energy sources.

Rather than purchasing their energy from the wholesale market, Apple wants to be able to own as much of its own power generation as possible. This effort extends to Apple desire to own, and even control, all of its computers. In order to make this desire a full reality, Apple is doing what it can to build, run, and buy its very own wind and solar energy farms. It plans to fully cut the middle man out using this effort.

Apple says that by 2020 it wants to have a source 4 GW of power generation that will be able to power over 725,000 homes. That power source will span out between sites that are owned and operated by Apple.

The project is the brainchild of Lisa Jackson who joined Apple back in 2013 after leaving her position as head of EPA. Since then she’s been behind the wheel in driving Apple toward converting to renewable energy. In fact, since she started, Apple has gone from the bottom of Greenpeace’s list to the top three for the last three year in a row.

 

Starbucks Brightens Things up With its New Unicorn Frappuccino

You might have noticed something a little different when you went to get your morning coffee. In fact, Starbucks new Unicorn Frappuccino is causing quite the stir. Instagram is flooded with photos of the new drink option as Starbucks customers line up to try the colorful creation.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTEnyfuFr43/?tagged=starbucksunicorndrink

One look at the drink and you’re reminded of something out of a carnival. The coffee giant says that the Unicorn Frappuccino has a “flavor and color-changing” uniqueness. It’s made using pink powder that is blended into a mango crème Frappuccino. It’s then layered with a sour powder topping. The color-changing will come when you stir the drink. It will change from purple to pink and the flavor will go from its initial sweet and fruity to a tangy and tart treat.

Yet as far as Starbucks is concerned the drink will need to do more than just attract Instagram posts. Limited time drinks are one of Starbucks specialties. The coffee connoisseur is known for tolling out new flavors that only last for a short period of time. For example, earlier it was the seasonal pumpkin spice latte which has been often imitated, but never duplicated, by many other coffee chains.

Frappuccino lovers only have a small window of time to try the new Unicorn Frappuccino. It will only be available from the 19th to the 23rd. It starts things out as Starbucks first new flavor of the year. It appears to be a good idea for the coffee chain to get back on its feet after a report of down sales for the year of 2016. Over the past year sales for Starbucks have dropped by at least 3 percent. That also adds to the fact that the company has a new CEO in the pilot’s seat.

So where did this idea come from? Starbucks says it pulled the idea from social media which is big on unicorn-theme food and drinks at the moment. Many also believe that the drink will be a great hit for generation Z, or those who were born after 1995. It’s Starbucks hope that the bright colors and a mix of flavor will attract those who grew up with social media to spread the word, therefore, increasing customer flow for the company.

Yet despite its current popularity, Starbucks is not the first coffee joint to come up with this multi-colored invention. The End, a café in Brooklyn that opened up last year, has a reputation for their culturally creative and multicolored lattes. One of those is the Unicorn Latte which is made with ginger, lemon, coconut milk, honey, and E3Live blue-green algae.

Just another magic Monday 👌✨ RG: @butfirst_burpees

A post shared by The End Brooklyn (@thendbrooklyn) on

There’s also the coffee stop called DRINK which is inside an American Eagle store in Time Square. They sell their own version of a Unicorn Latte. It’s safe to say that everyone was on the unicorn coffee bandwagon, and Starbucks decided to hop on last minute.

Yet with all the colors and flavor, Starbucks knows that some people will be concerned about the amount of sugar in the drink as well as its nutritional value. A spokesperson for the company told Business Insider that a tall Unicorn Frap that’s made with whole milk and has whipped cream will have 280 calories and 39 grams of sugar. If you don’t add cream and use almond milk instead of whole milk, a tall will only have 170 calories and 34 grams of sugar.

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The biggest question many people are asking is how does it taste. There are reports of  “sour skittles” to “sweet and fruity” and some people just plain don’t like it. So, if you haven’t already, hit the nearest Starbucks and add your own photo to Instagram before the Unicorn Frappuccino becomes just another Starbucks myth.

United CEO Says the Company can Learn and Grow from Dragging Incident

Despite all the constant fiasco that seem to plague United Airlines, the company’s top executive want to assure its investors that the airlines will continue to prosper while dealing with new changes brought about by recent events. One event was the forceful removal of a passenger that, thanks to social media, became a worldwide disaster.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, as well as two other executives, started the conference the conference call to talk about the quarterly earnings of United Continental Holdings Inc. The CEO and his group were forced to recognize the horrific confrontations that occurred on April 9th, which left 69-year-old Dr. David Dao injured and bloody.

Munoz stated that this incident has aroused question from many corporate travelers. Those are the travelers who pay top dollar for their plane tickets. His response to them was simply that the sales team for the airline was doing the best they could to addressing all concerns.

However, the Airline President, Scott Kirby, told analysts that it’s far too early to tell if the entire incident with the doctor hurt bookings for the company.

Yet Munoz thought the entire situation was a “humbling learning experience for all of us here at United and for me in particular.” In an address to those United flyers who seemed to have raised an eyebrow the company’s continuously scrupulous acts, Munoz extended his apologies and says that flyers “should expect more from us.”

It was no more than a week after Dr. Dao was forced to leave his seat by United employees. Dr. Dao was on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. According to his attorney, Dr. Dao suffered not only a sinus injury, but a concussion, a broken nose, and the loss of two front teeth.

The story goes like this. United Airline employees say that the flight was overbooked and room was needed for employees to sit. Employees went throughout the cabin asking for volunteers to leave the plane. They say up to $800 and a hotel stay was also offered. After no one seemed to volunteer, four people including the doctor were chosen. Yet despite the offer, he refused to give up his seat and take the next day flight.

The doctor and his wife were coming back from vacation in California. The two had boarded a connecting flight to head back to Louisville. Many other passengers shot footage of the encounter from different angles. Each video shows Dr. Dao getting loud with employees, but he is never hostile or violent. Suddenly, airport officers who had been called by United employees forcibly remove Dao from his seat.

In a statement after the incident, United says that they will no longer call on police to remove passengers unless the passenger poses a threat to their safety and others around them. United Airlines also said that they will enforce a requirement that has employees traveling for work should book their seats at least an hour beforehand. This will prevent any displacement of customers who are already on board.

Although United CEO Oscar Munoz has issued apology after apology, all his efforts seem to fall on deaf ears. It could have something to do with the fact that his immediate responses to the incident were as efficient as they should have been. In fact, Munoz made a statement not long after the incident with Dao saying that he would have to “re-accommodate” four United customers. The letter he issued to his employees was no better. He called Dr. Dao a “belligerent” customer who had “refused to comply” with employee requests to give up his seat.

Yet many seem to be wondering what will happen to the employees that asked Dao to leave his set? Munoz made another statement on Tuesday saying that “there was never consideration of firing an employee.” This comes in response to the rumor that the employees and even he would lose their jobs.  He even went as far as to call the entire thing a “system failure” and says that none of the employees were at fault.

That, on the other hand, isn’t how many people see it. Since the video of Dr. Dao, visible shaken, mouth bloody, surfaced all over the internet public outrage has reached all the way to China. Many are accusing United to racism due to the unjust treatment of Dao.

To smooth things out, Munoz met with the Chinese consulate in the U.S. after the incident. United has hopes of increasing their business with international travelers. Munoz says that has a scheduled trip to China in the next few weeks and hopes to discuss the issue there too.

Yet things won’t go away that easily. While Munoz sent out a personal letter to United highest spending customers who had nothing but support for the airline, Dao is already acting against the Chicago airline. Dao has hired attorneys in what is estimated to be a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against United. Dao and his attorney say that due to his being dragged off the plane, Dao will have to have reconstructive surgery to fix the damage.

Yet at the end of March United announced that is net income was down to $96 million, which is just 31 cents a share. That’s a considerably low number compared to the $313 million, 88 center a share, it pulled in the same time last year. To earn at least 41 cents a share, United had to get rid of a few things.

Those things include the $37 million in benefits and severance. The airline’s expenses also increased by 7.9 percent which is up to $8.1 billion. That increase was mainly due to the rise in fuel prices and the increase in the cost of labor since new union contracts were signed.

United also claims that to increase their market share they need to bring in more domestic passengers through regional carriers. The company also says it wasn’t to increase its business in Latin America.

But when it comes to the recent dip in United Continental’s stock, many analysts aren’t sure whether it was due to the Dao incident or the earnings report. On Tuesday, United Continental Holdings shares dropped from $70.77, which was Monday’s closing price, to $67.75.

While the event that took place with Dao, could have happened to any airline at any time, Seth Kaplan, the managing partner of Airline Weekly says that “United is under performing.” All we can watch and see how United bounced back from this recent fiasco.

Uber Announces a Loss of $2.8 Billion for 2016

Uber announced a gross of $20 billion for the year of 2016, which is double what the company made just the year before. After its drivers took their share, the company’s net revenue was an estimated $6.5 billion for the entire year. However, that rapid growth did not come without a price.

In fact, the company says that in the year of 2016 it lost over $2.8 billion. That money does not include its business in China that it sold in the middle of the year. Before Uber sold its China business to Didi Chuxing in the summer, it has already stated that it was losing over a billion in China.

While this loss is big by any company’s standards, Uber still managed to grow its sales in the second half of the year. It did this all while keeping is losses constant.

Uber is a privately-owned company and therefore it does not have to publicly report its finances. This moment of financial disclosure could be the company’s attempt to boost morale for the employees as well as those who have invested in the company. It would also help boost consumer’s confidence in Uber.

It was just recently that the company faced a lawsuit from Alphabet Waymo who insists that Uber’s self-driving technology was pilfered by a few Google employees. Just over a week ago, Uber finally released a statement against Waymo’s accusations. Basically, Uber says that Waymo is wrong.

Uber claims that all the self-driving technology it uses has been acquired legally through other sources. However, Waymo has taken its case to judge saying that Uber’s current executive stole over 14,000 documents before leaving Google to join Uber. Uber continues to investigate the matter by searching computers and other devices of its employees.

This announcement of the company’s high numbers could also be a great way to assure consumers that Uber is doing well despite the minor hiccups the company has had in the courtroom and on the road. Not long ago, an Uber autonomous vehicle was in an accident with another car.

The accident, though proved not to be the self-driving vehicles fault but that of the driver that failed to yield to the Uber vehicle, caused Uber to halt all its testing. The company stopped the test of its self-driving vehicles while the accident was further investigated. Once it was proved to have been the other driver’s error, Uber was quick to start their engines once more.

There is also a further investigation in response to an Uber employee who claims that when they worked for the company they experienced not only harassment but sexism. Yet despite all the negative things that have been happening for the company, it’s still pushing through and is continuing its race towards a fully autonomous vehicle.

A spokesperson for Uber, Rachel Holt who is also the regional manager for U.S. and Canada, said, “We’re fortunate to have a healthy and growing business, giving us the room to make the changes we know are needed on management and accountability, our culture and organization, and our relationship with drivers.”

Man’s Hand Built iPhone Cheaper Than Retail Version

Phones can get to be quite pricey. So, if you don’t feel like paying hundreds of dollars for a smartphone, just make your own. At least that’s what one man thought when he built his own iPhone 6s from scratch.

The crafty guy in question is named Scotty Allen. Allen has been living in China for nearly a year now. One day he decided to put together his own fully functional iPhone 6s. Allen did this by searching around the markets of Huaqiangbei for cellphone parts. Huaqiangbei is full of spare parts and other technological components.

The search for the right parts did prove to be tedious even though Allen had help from a Shenzhen local. Then there was the entire process of making the device which only seemed to be more laborious than finding the parts. Allen struggled with soldering a functional logic board and other parts. In the end, he just bought a recycled logic board that came with a Touch ID sensor.

Part searching and soldering combined with the puzzled expressions of the locals who kept wondering why he would want to build his own phone, made the entire experience an adventure for Allen.

The whole idea started when one someone mentioned that it would be possible to build an iPhone from spare parts found throughout Shenzhen. Allen then took that as a personal challenged and started the mission to craft his own device.

The entire mission to build his own iPhone 6s cost Allen a total of $1000. Most of that money was spent in parts that he ended up not having to use. When it was all said and done, Allen says he estimates it took him about $300 to build the finished product. That’s surprisingly cheaper than many of the retail prices. According to statistics on teardown, Allen’s finished product almost matches iFixit’s estimated $236 for an iPhone 6s Plus’s materials and manufacturing.

Allen chose to create the iPhone 6s because the earlier generation smartphone’s part would be far easier to find then the parts of the recent iPhone 7. When it comes to the iPhone 6s parts, Allen said it was easier to find the parts because “A lot of the parts come from recycled/broken phones.”

Yet Allen says that despite the low price of his custom iPhone 6s, it wasn’t about the money for him. He also commented that, “It happens that what I spent in parts is less than what it would cost to buy a phone in the Apple Store, but I’m also taking on a whole lot of risk that a part will break, or isn’t up to spec, and I’ll have to buy a new one later. It’s not about having a phone for less.”

It’s safe to say that no one would fly to China and search around for the parts to build their own iPhone. Unless you know where to look or what to look for, so many things could go wrong. Yet Allen’s crafty project does allow us to take a good look at the real cost of manufacturing, developing, and other factors of creating devices like iPhone’s.

Owing Student Loans Can Cost You Your Tax Refund

The cost of college has gone up exponentially in the last few years. The only way some can afford to get the education they want is to take out student loans. However, it can be quite difficult to take care of a home, children, and other expenses as well as pay back your loans. So, if you stopped paying them, you might be in for quite a shock when you do your taxes. Not paying your federal student loans could prevent you from getting a tax refund.

Due to what is known as a tax refund “offset,” the government is given the ability to withhold any refunds from student borrowers who have fallen behind on their payments. The question is, what happens to the money that you don’t get back in your taxes? Simple, the government applies the refund to your loan balance. 

This isn’t something that the government will suddenly spring on borrowers. Borrowers will be notified beforehand that they won’t be receiving their refunds or other government payments. But in some cases, like for instance if a borrower has moved, then they won’t be notified right away that their refunds will be withheld. There’s always the chance that someone might be so in over their head in finances that they just toss their mail aside.

While the government will send a letter in the mail, most of the time letters that come from the Treasury Offset Program are riddled with bureaucratic language that can make it a bit difficult for people to understand. Plain and simple, even if you are notified you still might have no clue what’s going on.

The Internal Revenue Service says that the average federal tax refund can get up to $2,800 for most. That’s quite a chunk of money to be missing and can have a big impact on a borrower’s financial situation.

One thing that people can do is to decrease the number of withholdings from their paychecks. This will cut down on the size of possible refunds. Yet Persis Yu, who is the director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, says that this might not help some people since they’ll be receiving refunds from income tax credit.

At the end of last near there were over 8 million federal student loan borrowers who were in default, according to Department of Education’s statistics. Loans enter the default stage after there has been a lack of payment for over 270 days which is roughly nine months.

Are people able to prevent the offset of their tax refund? After receiving the letter of notification, borrowers are usually given at least 65 days to appeal a referral to the offset program. There is the option of requesting a file on your loan which, if done quick enough, can buy borrowers some time. After that, borrowers can still appeal but refunds will still be withheld while a decision is made.

If the borrower happens to be married and filing jointly, the spouse of the borrower has the option to file a claim with the I.R.S. and get the portion of the refund that belongs to them.

But how do borrowers stop continued withholdings of their tax refunds? If the federal student loans of the borrower are in default, the government can withhold any refunds ad apply them to the loans. Repaying the loan in full is an option that majority of borrowers don’t have. To get out of the default status, a borrower should go for loan rehabilitation or loan consolidation.

Loan rehabilitation gives the borrower a chance to make an agreement with their lender. This agreement will give the borrower nine affordable payments to make. The payments must be on time to return the loan to good standing. After that, the borrower might be eligible for flexible programs that provide lower monthly income-based payments.

On the other hand, loan consolidation allows the borrower to refinance the defaulted loans into a new loan. Both options have their ups and downs. Consolidation is by far the fastest way to get loans out of default. Rehabilitation, however, provides a better outcome from the borrower’s credit report.

Finally, many borrowers might be under the misconception that tax refunds withheld while their loans are in default may count toward the nine payments during loan rehabilitation. But that’s not the case at all. When in loan rehabilitation, borrowers must make all their payments voluntarily for them to count toward the agreement.

Nintendo Sells Over 1 Million Switch Units in the U.S.

It’s safe to assume that Nintendo is beaming with pride. The Nintendo Switch sold over 906,000 units in the United States this past month. That’s just the United States, so the number of units sold in Canada, Japan (who’s numbers are estimated at half a million), and the United Kingdom could significantly add to that massive amount.

Nintendo bragged in a press release just recently that the Switch is the fastest selling video game unit in the history of the company. It’s being compared by many to the Wii U which only sold over 890,000 units in the United States its first six weeks out on the market. When the Wii U came out, it was also during holiday season which added to its numbers. That’s one of the reasons that the Switch numbers are rather impressive since its launch was well after the holiday had passed. 

Aside from the nearly one million Switch units that have been sold, the game Zelda: Breath of the Wild has sold a rising 1.3 million copies in the U.S. Nine hundred and twenty-five thousand of those games were for the Nintendo Switch and the other 460,000 were for Wii U. It’s also interesting that many people are buying more Switch games then they are units. Gamers are given an attach rate of over 100 percent which, in itself, is quite a percentage number.

The Nintendo Switch first became available for pre-order back in January. Nintendo hosted a presentation of the Switch which not only explored the Zelda game but gave a release date of March 3rd for countries like Japan, the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

After its official release in March the numbers rose significantly as gamers lined up at stores to get their hands on the long-awaited unit. In fact, most stores sold out of the units faster than gamers could buy them.

In the press release  Nintendo, the company made a statement saying, “While Nintendo Switch sales are off to a record-breaking start, shipments have not yet been able to keep up with such high demand.  Nintendo is working to make sure everyone who wants a system is able to buy one, and more systems are continually being shipped.”

As the Nintendo Switch’s success continues to soar, it’s safe to say that if you haven’t gotten one you should. It might not be long before they’re gone for good.

Burger King Ad Sparks Old Debate About Voice Devices

A new Burger Kind ad was created to be able to trigger Googles voice-activated Home smart speaker. This ad was put in place to help advertise the Whopper but unfortunately doesn’t seem to be working anymore.

The ad came out Wednesday and has an actor playing a Burger King worker say, “OK Google: What is the Whopper burger?” Saying that line was supposed to trigger your Google app to read off the definition of the Whopper per it’s Wikipedia page.

It was just three short hours after the ad was launched that it stopped working. Google would simply light up and stay silent. If you prompted it to read you the definition of the “Whopper burger”, however, it would give you the Wikipedia articles first line but wasn’t responding to the commercial’s prompt.

Burger King made a statement confirming that the ad no longer recognizes the speaker and that the trigger doesn’t seem to be working anymore. The fast food giant did say that they expect the ad to start working again soon. A spokesperson for Burger King Brooke Scher Mogan said that consumers will have to “tune in tonight to see if the commercials triggers the Whopper sandwich definition response.”

Google, on the other hand, didn’t give any response to the matter. In fact, a source from the company says that Google was not informed about the ad by the fast food chain before the commercials shooting.

In the past, many commercials have accidentally triggered voice assistant apps in people’s homes. This, however is the first time a food chain has tried to do it intentionally. While it might seem like a clever idea and a great way to sell burgers for Burger King, some consumers in the YouTube comments section weren’t too pleased with the idea.

In fact, one comment read, “When you take over someone’s phone or tablet and have it do your own remote commands intentionally, you are HACKING.”

Yet despite many people thinking that Burger King is trying to hack them, it might be good that the trigger doesn’t work. Not long after the ad aired, many people took to the internet and started changing the first line of the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia users altered the definition to say things like the Whopper was “cancer-causing.” Users even added ingredients like “cyanide” to the burger definition.

It would also seem that after the ad backfired and Wikipedia users began changing things up, Burger King decided to backpedal. They took things into their own hands and soon wonderful descriptions of the Whopper began showing up on the article site. In fact, one description was changed by “Fermachado123.”

It could only be coincidence that the user name noted above sounds suspiciously like Burger King’s senior vice president for global brand management’s Fernando Machado. Burger King, however, didn’t confirm or deny that Machado made any edits to the Wikipedia site.

Yet it isn’t just the idea of being hacked that slightly frightens consumers. Privacy concerns revolving around voice-activated speakers has steadily began to increase. It’s gotten higher since more companies have made attempts to bring this technology to their products. This in turn puts even more pressure on voice-operated security systems and even door locks who are trying to make sure that user devices won’t be trigger by unwanted voices.

The use of advertisement on Google Home has been questioned by a large number of consumers. Many of them simply don’t want to be spammed by what they consider to be personal assistants. Google received a good deal of criticism after an advertisement for “Beauty and the Beast” appeared around the time of the films first showings.

In order to make amends to users, Google issued a statement saying that what users saw wasn’t an ad. The company said that bringing up the film was a way to get users to know about what was timely that day. A Google spokesperson went on to say, “We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users, and we could have done better in this case.”

As for Burger King, it’s safe to estimate that this epic advertising fail won’t have any bearing on Whopper sales. With fast food still being one of the largest and quickest meal choices, there are over billions of Whoppers sold worldwide. Burger King is probably already back at the drawing board with new advertising ideas.

 

Trump Might Surpass Obama’s 8 Years of Travel in Just one Year

Some believe that Donald Trump is well on his way to surpassing former President Barack Obama’s eight-year travel spending amount. It’s only been 80 days since Trump took office and his trip to his private club in Florida cost an estimated $20 million.

So why are so many slightly raising their eyebrows at this lucrative spending? Well if you recall, back during the Obama presidency, Trump openly criticized President Obama for the money he cost American taxpayers for every trip he took.

Yet when a president decides to go on a trip, he can’t just book a flight and be on his way. There’s the cost of secret service and other security measures that, in their entirety, can’t be completely estimated. A 2016 Government Accountability Office report on a four-day Florida trip President Obama took back in 2013 estimated that the cost of security was about $3.6 million.

It would seem that President Trump has spent a total of 21 days, including six weekends, at his private Palm Beach club, Mar-A-Lago. It’s been estimated that the total amount for all these trips rounds off to about $21.6 million.

However, when it comes to presidential trips, President Obama spent slightly under $97 million throughout his 8 years in the White House. His trips included personal vacations to Aspen for skiing and the Obama family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. But there were also work trips like when he visited the Everglades National Park for Earth Day.

Before taking office, Trump was quite the critic of President Obama’s vacations. He often took to Twitter to express his disapproval for the vacation trips Obama took to his home state Hawaii.

One of his Tweets featured an inaccurate unemployment figure when Trump said, “The habitual vacationer, @BarackObama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million +++ while there is 20% unemployment.”

He also later Tweeted, “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars—Unbelievable!”

It’s believed that if Trump’s spending habits continue on their current pace, the new president will surpass President Obama’s within the next few months. Which is in question since Trump has recently said that the federal government should cut down their own spending by $54 billion. This cut deals out low blows to the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection as well as lot of other departments that will receive big cuts.

However, as the weather in that region begins to escalate in the upcoming month, it’s expected that President Trump will stop his Palm Beach vacations. Although it will be too hot to vacation in Florida, many others think that the president’s next move will be to Trump Tower in New York City. In his penthouse apartment there his wife and first lady Melania Trump has been residing since the beginning of 2017 with their son. The other vacation destination that is suspected for the president is Bedminster Township, New Jersey where his private Trump National Golf Club is.

Yet despite his criticism of President Obama’s vacations, the Trump family is proving to be a bit costly when it comes to security protection. Not only does he frequent travels rack up cash but it costs an estimated $127,000 to $146,000 per day to protect the first lady as she resides in New York without the president.

The secret service is in a bit of a strain as well when it comes to extending their protection to the first family. Many have been pulled from their investigations across the country in order to put on two-week rotations to protect Trump and the entire first family.

John Kelly who is the Homeland Security Secretary says that Homeland Security plans to ask Trump for more funding for his protection. Kelly said, “We need a larger Secret Service because we need to get some of these people a little bit of time at home with their families.”

United Passenger’s Actions Called ‘Immature?’

Things with United Airlines seemed to cool down after the airline kicked two young women off of its flight for wearing leggings. However, just this Sunday, the airline suffered another fiasco.

It was Sunday evening that a video of a man being dragged off of a United flight began floating around social media. The man was removed from the flight not only because it was booked but because United had to make room for its own employees.

This incident follows behind one that happened just a few weeks ago. United prevented two girls from boarding their flight due to the fact that they were wearing “form-fitting” leggings. While this and the recent incident has most of the internet in quite a stir, United says that it always attempts to “do a professional job.”  “But not everyone on the plane is professional,” is what former United Continental Holdings Chief Executive Gordon Bethune told CNBC.

As far as the two young women were concerned, United said that they were “representatives” of the company and dress code was mandatory for their travels. But what are the airline’s views on Sunday’s incident?

Bethune also went on to say that the man’s “immature” display was quite upsetting and that it was now up to United to issue an apology. He told a source that it would be best if United CEO Oscar Munoz made an apologetic statement. “I’m sure there will be reconciliation…some effort to show they care about passengers,” Bethune continued.

And it didn’t take long after the incident for Munoz to make a statement. He said, the whole thing was “an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

Yet while some can hardly believe that this kind of thing would be allowed, experts say that this isn’t too uncommon for airlines.  Andy Swan, who founded the social media monitor LikeFolio told a source that many airlines have a “low happiness level” when it comes to their passengers.

Public relations complications like this one are “nothing new” Swan even said. That could have something to do with the fact that United Continentals stock wasn’t all too negatively affected by the incident. In fact, shares actually rose by 1 percent.

The reality is, travelers buy their plane tickets based on whichever airlines offer the lowest prices. Unlike retailers or fast food chains who have to fight their way back to customer satisfaction, things like brand image don’t really faze airlines like United.

Munoz also said in his statement that United would be working “with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.”

 

Waymo Still Insists That Uber’s Self-Driving Technology is Stolen

Things between Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo, have only begun to get heated. Just this Friday, Uber made a long-awaited response about the lawsuit that Waymo filed against it. Waymo sued Uber for stealing its self-driving technology. Uber, on the other hand, says that’s just not true.

This Friday, Uber announced in a statement that there’s no way it could have pilfered Waymo’s technology. Uber’s reason for not needing Waymo tech? It says that it’s still using off-the-shelf technology for its own autonomous vehicle testing. Uber calls the lawsuit an utter “misfire.” Yet in doing so, it was forced to swallow its pride and admit that Google self-driving tech is a bit superior to its own.

The lawsuit began in late February when Waymo made accusations that Anthony Levandowski stole over 14,000 confidential documents. Levandowski is a former Google engineer and current executive at Uber. Waymo says that Levandowski used the pilfered documents to entice Uber into buying his autonomous start-up vehicle, Otto. Uber bought the self-driving truck for $680 million only six months after it was launched in 2016.

Since then, Uber simply called the allegations “baseless”, and hasn’t made any statement on the matter until now. Angella Padilla, who is general counsel to Uber, said that, “If Waymo genuinely thought that Uber was using its secrets, it would not have waited more than five months to seek an injunction.”

Uber has since searched Levandowski’s computer, computers of “randomly selected” employees, and the computers of two former Alphabet employees. In its search, Uber says that only one of the 14,000 documents were found. Wyamo wasn’t too convinced and even called the search inadequate. The judge overseeing the case agreed with Waymo and ordered that Uber search harder.

Waymo then attempted to file an injunction against Uber’s use of the cars that contain allegedly stolen technology. This would significantly impact Uber’s autonomous testing. Uber’s driverless cars are everywhere. The company has vehicles like the Volvo XC90 SUVs, which are equipped with LIDAR cameras, sensors, and other self-driving tech, in Pittsburgh and Arizona.

Uber also responded to Waymo’s request for an injunction. It claimed that Waymo hasn’t yet to arrive at the threshold needed for the courts to approve the injunction. It’s also sticking to the belief that Waymo’s accusations are just plain untrue. Padilla said, “Waymo doesn’t meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation — probably Waymo’s goal in the first place.”

Uber says that the LIDAR technology it uses for its autonomous vehicles was developed over a year before the company hired Levandowski. Uber also says that the LIDAR sensors they use are muli-lens and not single-lens like Waymo’s. Uber sensors, the company insisted, are purchased off-the-shelf from Velodyne.

These accusations of Uber using stolen technology could hit the company right in the gut. If Uber can develop its autonomous technology enough to make the majority of its cars driverless, it could increase profit. Then it would be able to cut down on its fares and increase demand.

But things aren’t looking too good for Uber. Levandowski invoked his Fifth Amendment right which allows him to avoid self-incrimination. That was a decision made against Uber’s lawyer’s advice. Lior Ron, who helped Levandowski co-found Otto, was also named in the lawsuit.

Finally, it would appear that Uber desires to move the lawsuit case into arbitration. Its argument is that since Levandowski is the center of Waymo’s accusations, as well as a former employee, it should be allowed into an arbitration agreement. This is a clever request on Uber’s part. It would allow the company to avoid the embarrassing and expensive jury trial that is scheduled to begin in October.

Waymo’s spokesperson said in a statement,

“Uber’s assertion that they’ve never touched the 14,000 stolen files is disingenuous at best, given their refusal to look in the most obvious place: the computers and devices owned by the head of their self-driving program. We’re asking the court to step in based on clear evidence that Uber is using, or plans to use, our trade secrets to develop their LIDAR technology, as seen in both circuit board blueprints and filings in the State of Nevada.”

 

US Department of Labor Accuses Google of Underpaying Female Employees

The US Department of Labor says that they have found evidence of a “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” at Google. It was just this winter in January that the labor department sued the tech giant after it was accused of withholding information regarding a compliance audit.

Back in September of 2015, Google didn’t hand over data on employee compensation that had been requested by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). After Googled refused to provide the data information, the Department of Labor was forced to take the tech giant to court in order to retrieve the documents.

So what was Google’s reason for withholding the information? The company says that it refused to provide the data due to reasons of privacy. It went on to say that the information requested by the OFCCP was “overly broad.”

OFCCP believes that businesses that are under federal contract should comply with federal law, that includes Google. It’s also believed that any contractor that brings in more than $10,000 in business for the government for over a year should provide equal employment. This forbids contractors from “discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.”

Regional Director for the Department of Labor, Janette Wipper, brought into light, during a court hearing on Friday, that Google pays its female employees less than their male peers. It was later that the Department of Labor’s Regional Solicitor Janet Herold made confirmation of the statement to a source. Herold told the source that while the DOL was still investigating the issue, it has proof that there is “very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”

As for Google’s position on the matter? The tech giant completely denies all these allegations. It made a statement to a source saying that it “vehemently disagree[s] with [Wipper’s] claim.”

In its own investigation, Google says it has not found any evidence of a pay gap between men and woman during the company’s annual analysis. Google says it’s the first they have heard about the Department of Labor’s accusations, and that the labor department failed to provide them with any sort of information or data to support their claims.

Later in February, the OFCCP asked a judge for a summary judgment on the matter. The judge denied the request. At the court hearing on Friday the DOL persisted in a prehearing statement that it was imperative the court make Google hand over the requested information it has yet to provide to the OFCCP.

Between the OFCCP and the DOP, both are in agreement that Google should turn over information and is subject to all regulations. In the prehearing statement, however, it was explained that the DOL and Google are clear on a few of their incongruities. One being that employee names and contact information are important to the audit. Another disagreement between the two is that Google believes that it will be subject to “undue burden” by providing this information to the OFCCP.

As for Google facing an “undue burden”, the Department of Labor feels that Google will be under no such burden by these requests or will its business be interrupted by its compliance with federal order. Instead, the DOL believes that Google’s Affirmative Action Plan created just as much of the burden that Google was worried about not to mention the $150 million Google spent toward diversity issues.

DOL also made it known that any of the business that Google does with the federal government has nothing to do with the company’s compliance with federal order. The OFCCP had even offered to pay for the cost of gathering the information need.

Hyundai and Kia Announce Recall of 1.4 Million Cars

It appears that Ford isn’t the only automaker to be making recalls on its vehicles. Hyundai and Kia are recalling over 1.4 million cars in the United States, Canada, and South Korea. The cause? There’s trouble in the engine that can cause it to fail or even stall which can result in car crashes.

This huge recall spans to some of the most popular of the Korean car maker’s brands. Those recalled in the U.S. and Canada included the 2013 and 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SUV and Sonata midsize cars. There are also the 2011-2014 Kia Optima midsize models, 2011-2013 Kia Sportage SUVs, and the 2012-2014 Kia Sorento SUVs.

The vehicles that are being recalled in South Korea are the 2009-20012 Hyundai Grandeur and Sonata sedans as well as the Kia K5, K7 and Sportage models. All these vehicles, as well as the ones mentioned in the United States and Canada, have 2-Liter or 2.4-Liter gasoline engines.

Both Hyundai and Kia announced Friday that documents from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that there could be debris left over from manufacturing in the engines which could then result in the restriction of oil flow to connecting rod bearings. Those rods are cooled by the oil, but the restriction can lead to increase in temperature which will then cause the rod bearings to wear and fail. This ultimately leads to the engine stalling.

Hyundai and Kia will begin alerting owners of the recall while dealers begin inspecting engines. Dealers are to begin replacing the block in the engine free of charge to owners. There have been no reports of any crashes or series injuries sustained as a result of the engine default.

The recall is the second largest that has occurred in the past two years for the same engine problem. Back in September of 2015, Hyundai recalled over 470,000 of its 2011 and 2012 Sonata sedans that had the same engines.

So, what are owners looking out for? Both companies say that owners will hear a knocking sound in the engine that will increase in frequency as the engine speed increases. There can also be engine lights on the dashboard that will be coming on. The recall is to take place beginning May 19th.

Amazon Announces its Plan to Hire on 30,000 Part-Time Workers

Amazon announces that it will provide another stream of jobs. The online retail giant says that it hopes to add over 30,000 part-time jobs in the United States over a span of the next year.

Amazon says that many of the positions they will be opening up will be for virtual customer service. It will open at least 5,000 jobs in that division. But a great majority, the remaining 25,000 to be exact, would be for Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon says that any part-time employee who works at least 20 hours a week or more will be eligible for benefits.

This new wave of jobs is part of Amazon’s hiring kick that they’ve been on since January. Back then, the online giant said it was bringing 100,000 full-time jobs to the United states within the next 18 months. Those full-time positions also come with benefits, and most of the positions that need to be filled up would be in new centers like cloud technology and machine learning, as well as other fulfillment centers.

Amazon has been bulking up its staff over the last few years. Amazon, in 2011, stated that they had over 56,000 full and part-time workers on staff. Close to the end of the 2016 fiscal year, however, that number climbed up to a hefty 341,000.

It would seem that the fears many were having about robots replacing human jobs, has been put on the back burner with all these new positions being offered. While Amazon experimented with its Amazon Go stores, supermarkets that would allow customers to bypass long checkout lines, many people had mixed feelings.

It was thought by those who work at supermarkets that their jobs were at risk. If people were choosing the Amazon Go store, where all they had to do was pick up their items and leave, why would they go to regular supermarkets and wait in line? Yet Amazon disputed these thoughts and made sure that people knew how valuable humans are to the workforce. Amazon Go would be run by AI technology but it would also have humans in the store helping with stocking and such.

It was not long after, that the company began announcing new warehouse jobs as well as the part-time positions.

Amazon’s growth as a company has also given brick and mortar stores a run for their money. As most people are turning to online shopping, in-store retailers are beginning to feel the pain in the loss of customers and sales. Many, like Payless ShoeSource, are turning to bankruptcy and others, like Sears Holdings, had to take out large loans to stay in business.

But things at Amazon aren’t as perfect as they may seem. There have been great concerns about the quality of Amazon’s job perspective that employees will be getting. In the past, Amazon has been subject to complaints as well as lawsuits related to the type of working conditions they provide as well as the inadequate wages.

However, despite all that talk, Amazon’s president of worldwide customer service, Tom Weiland, made a comment to a source saying, “There are lots of people who want or need a flexible job — whether they’re a military spouse, a college student, or a parent — and we’re happy to empower these talented people no matter where they happen to live.”

So, while many brick and mortar stores are shutting their doors, leaving their workers without employment, online retail is swelling with growth. The expansion of Amazon is bringing in hundreds of jobs and worker benefits as well as further development of AI technology. It’s safe to say that retail will never be the same.

 

South African Court Says Selling Rhino Horn is Legal

An appeal by the Department of Environmental Affairs was recently dismissed by South Africa’s Constitutional Court. The appeal was to retain a moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horns.

According to a source, Pelham Jones, who is the chairman of South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA), was named as one of the respondents to the appeal case. Jones told Reuters that the court’s decision means that the selling of rhino horn is now legal in South Africa.

Jones commented on the situation saying that “We welcome the Constitutional Courts ruling, we believe it is a right we have been entitled to.”

Even though the Constitutional Court says that selling rhino horn is now legal, it’s important to note that a global ban on rhino horn trade is still in place. The ban was put in place by a U.N. convention. Basically, it means that any rhino horn that is acquired legally in South Africa cannot be exported out of the country.

It was only last summer that South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals met and dismissed the government’s decision to uphold the ban on domestic rhino horn which had been put in place back in 2009. In a last stitch effort, the appeal went to the Constitutional Court who is the last judicial option on the matter.

Many private rhino ranchers and other associations claim that they need the right to sell rhino horn in order to afford extra security costs. Things like armed patrols, helicopters, and electric fencing can get to be pretty costly. Those costs are probably why ranchers and associations were the main initiators of the court action.

Yet PROA says that it’s estimated that nearly 6,500 rhinos are owned by private ranches and associations throughout South Africa. That makes up more than a third of the national population.

Rhinos regrow their horns after they have been cut off. Usually, rhino horn is harvested from a rhino that has been tranquilized. While the South African government won’t say how large of a stockpile of rhino horn it has, PROA believes that it members have over 6 tons. PROA also estimates that the state could possibly have as close to 25 tons. The two together total enough rhino horn to equal $2 billion.

Yet when it comes to obtaining the very pricey material, there are worries from conservationists who believe that harvesters could be exporting to countries like Vietnam and China. Both countries use the rhino horn as the main ingredient in medicines and their demand for it has rippled the poaching waters.

Last year the number of rhinos being poached for their horns actually dropped by 10 percent to an estimated 1,054. It was the second year of decline as noted by the government. While this is good, conservationists still believe these numbers to be far too great.

The poaching of rhinos in South Africa rose drastically from 83 in 2008 all the ay up to 1,215 in 2014. It’s predicted that this dramatic increase in rhino poaching was to keep up with trade in Asian markets who have a high demand for the horn.

It’s no secret why South Africa is a main circuit for the poaching and trade of rhino horns. South Africa holds over 80 percent of the rhino population. Both the white rhino, who’s population is estimated at 18,000, and the black rhino, who’s numbers have dwindled to 2,000, call South Africa home.

Yet Jones and PROA are making steps toward better security that will prevent the sale for “blood horns” in the market. He told a source that his group was in the process of “setting up a domestic trade desk.” He also said that PROA would be “consulting with economists to determine market prices.”

While the Constitutional Court says that trade of rhino horn is legal, it will still be subject to the regulations set by the government. The government will have to issue permits to those who want to be part of the domestic trade. It would seem that those who plan to buy the rhino horn are those believe that rhino horn can grow in value and those who will use it for decoration.

So far, a spokesperson for the South African Department of Environmental Affairs has not made any comment but should be issuing a statement on the matter soon.