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Report: Amazon Working On Smart Glasses

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First there was the oft-maligned Google Glasses, then Snapchat’s Spectacles. Now, it looks like Amazon may be getting into high-tech eyewear.

The Financial Times reports (subscription required) that Amazon’s first wearable device will likely go on your face, not your wrist, as sources close to the matter note the e-commerce giant is working on Alexa-enabled “smart glasses.”

The glasses, which would likely be tethered to a customer’s smartphone, would allow users to talk to and hear from Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa at any time.

Sources tell Financial Times that the glasses could reach the market by the end of the year.

Consumerist has reached out to Amazon for comment. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

Different Than Glass

Amazon’s decision to jump into the connected-eyewear game is a bit unexpected, as this type of wearable hasn’t exactly been greeted with open arms by customers.

Google found that out the hard way with its failed Google Glass project. Google Glass was first offered to consumers who applied for the $1,500 Explorer Program in April 2013. About a year later it went on sale to the general public.

Sales of the gadget were relatively small, thanks in part to privacy complaints, technical shortcomings, and a lack of obvious uses.

Amazon appears to be taking a different approach to the glasses than Google, as sources note the new wearable will likely not have a screen like Glass.

Another New Device

Sources tell Financial Times that the glasses aren’t the only new device coming from Amazon, as the company is also reportedly working on a security camera.

The new camera would use Amazon’s Echo system, possibly allowing customers to view the camera’s feed from the Echo Show screen.

If the camera is pointed at the front door, it could also show customers when Amazon packages are delivered.





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sjk
4 days ago
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This will go about as well as Google Glass and the Fire phone.
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Why Does Jimmy Kimmel Want Americans To Suffer?

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In recent months, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has taken to scaremongering his audience with well-worn Democratic Party talking points regarding health-care insurance policy. Between yuks, Kimmel will occasionally accuse Republicans of being would-be baby killers, which is treated as an important political development because, well, Jimmy Kimmel is famous.

Last night, the comedian was back to explain to his audience why the new Graham-Cassidy “repeal” bill was bad news. There were only two things wrong with his monologue: The first was that almost everything he said was either completely untrue or highly misleading. The second was that his simplistic emotional appeal is completely disconnected from the real world.

Thankfully, his boy is okay. “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” said an emotional Kimmel in May. “I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”

Yes, everyone agrees. As far as I know, there isn’t a single politician in America who has ever supported allowing babies to die because they are born with birth defects, even if the parents can’t pay. There never has been. After Kimmel’s May rant, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy showed up on his show to explain his position.

These types of culture encounters shouldn’t be dismissed, because the fact is that most viewers are unaware of specific policies and have a notional understanding prejudiced by the establishment media’s coverage. In any event, Cassidy came up with something he called “The Jimmy Kimmel Test,” which is that no “family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it.”

Kimmel claims that the new bill doesn’t meet this threshold. “This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face,” Kimmel said, before going on an extended political rant on Tuesday night. “By the way, before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I’m politicizing my son’s health problems, I want you to know: I am politicizing my son’s health problems,” he went on. Okay.

“Coverage for all? No,” explained Kimmel, “In fact, it will kick about 30 million Americans off insurance.”

Not a single person would be kicked off his or her insurance. The last time we went through this, the Congressional Budget Office found that 14 million of the 24 million Americans off health insurance due to an Obamacare repeal would choose not to buy it in 2018 in the absence of a penalty. Around six million or more of those 24 million are people the CBO just assumes would have left Obamacare markets even if the law was not repealed. Now, if you don’t believe Americans should be afforded this choice, just say so. No one is being kicked off.

Moreover, if Kimmel supports the individual mandate, Graham-Cassidy allows California to institute it — as I am sure it would.

“Pre-existing conditions? No.” Kimmel says, “Individual states can let insurance companies charge more if you have a preexisting condition.”

States would be allowed to apply for waivers to change what qualifies as an essential health benefit as long as they still preserve “adequate and affordable health insurance coverage” for people with preexisting conditions. You may prefer price-fixing to allowing states flexibility to mete out their own block grants and pricing, but Graham-Cassidy does not break “The Jimmy Kimmel Test.” If anything, it more fairly divvies up federal dollars to the states.

Anyway, so went a monologue that could have been written by any liberal activist. Fact is that Kimmel is a fan of the status quo, and he wants you to call Cassidy to complain about it. It’s a shame that Kimmel didn’t provide a number to call for the tens of millions of Americans who have seen their premiums and out-of-pocket costs skyrocket under Obamacare’s strictures. Is there no telephone number for those who are sick of being in exchanges that coerce them to buy plans they don’t need sold to them by companies they don’t like in fabricated non-competitive markets that have dwindling choices?

Kimmel doesn’t believe Americans deserve the chance to reduce the cost of health care with market-based reforms on the state level, or in giving states any flexibility in catering their plans to their citizens. Kimmel believes California and New York should spend away and smaller states should suffer. Kimmel doesn’t believe that individuals and families should be allowed to contribute to health saving accounts or use them to help pay ever-growing insurance premiums.

Perhaps one day Kimmel can tell us what health-care insurance policy he envisions that has the government cutting checks for the entire price of every medical procedure on demand. Right now, however, no such policy can exist, even if we raise taxes on millionaires, as Kimmel suggests.

A Politico poll conducted this week found that both Democratic and Republican voters say they are comfortable with the ideological positions of their parties. This debate is not going to get any more pleasant. So there are two ways to go about national reform. One is to force the whole country to live under unilateral partisan rule. The other is to decentralize and let states try to figure it out. Kimmel may be perfectly content grandstanding against this idea while millions suffer. Others may feel differently.

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sjk
5 days ago
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I can't believe that Jimmy Kimmel just lied to my face! It's like you can't trust late night talk show comedians anymore.
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Thomas Hudner: Medal of Honor Recipient – He Crashed His Plane To Save His Comrade

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It is common in combat for valiant men to risk their lives to help their buddies. Some incredibly courageous people do so in the knowledge they risk certain death. In several instances, a soldier has jumped on a grenade to save his friends. Soldiers have charged across fields of fire to retrieve the wounded. In the case of Thomas Hudner, he intentionally crashed his F4U Corsair into a frozen mountain 15 miles behind enemy lives to save his comrade.

A Career Navy Man

Thomas J Hudner Jr was born on August 31, 1924, in Fall River, Massachusetts into a typical middle-class family. In 1939 he attended the prestigious Phillips Academy where he excelled with interests in athletics and leadership abilities. When the United States entered WWII, his headmaster gave such an inspiring speech that Hudner joined the military. In 1943 he entered the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Hudner was in good company with such fellow cadets as James Stockdale and future President Jimmy Carter. However, when he graduated in 1946 WWII had ended.

Although Hudner would earn his Medal of Honor as a pilot, he originally had no plans to pursue aviation. He did a short stint on board the USS Helena. Then, after another year in Pearl Harbor as a communications officer, his interest in aviation began to surface. Having completed basic and advanced flight training, Hudner qualified as a Naval Aviator in August 1949. He was assigned to the USS Leyte flying an F4U Corsair. His wingman was none other than the first African-American US Naval Aviator, Jesse Brown.

Hudner shortly after becoming a naval aviator in 1950.

Take Care of Your Wingman

While Brown was blazing a trail through a military structure that typically omitted African-Americans he encountered the type of vitriol associated with that period. Multiple attempts had been made to flunk Brown in training. He had received threats against his life, and resistance at every step. On board the USS Leyte, however, Brown found the environment more accepting. He was well liked by his fellow pilots and was regarded as an effective and respected pilot. 

Hudner was to prove the mantra that a pilot takes care of his wingman at all costs.

On June 25, 1950, ten divisions of North Koreans poured across the border into South Korea whose forces were unable to repel the invasion. The United Nations voted to send military assistance to the area. At the time Hudner’s ship was in the Mediterranean. In August they were ordered to proceed to the theater of war immediately as the pilots on board the USS Leyte were regarded as having more experience than other aircraft carriers.

Arriving in October, Hudner and his pilots set to work. Wracking up sortie after sortie, Hudner and Brown did their worst upon the enemy, destroying communication lines and attacking troops and military installations.

The Chinese joined the fray in November to assist the North Koreans. 100,000 Chinese troops surrounded approx 15,000 American Marines. The pilots were flying dozens of close air support missions every day to protect the area.

Along with four other aircraft, Hudner and Brown were on a search-and-destroy mission near the Chosin Reservoir in harsh winter conditions. Chinese presence was light in the vicinity, but due to the low altitude required for the job, the planes were susceptible to small arms ground fire. One of the pilots contacted Brown by radio advising he could see a trail of fuel and oil leaking from the wingman’s aircraft. For Brown, it was his 20th mission; but it looked like it could be his last.

Truman congratulates Hudner after presenting him with the Medal of Honor.

A Gallant Effort

Unable to control his plane due to the loss of oil pressure, Brown descended into the frozen fields of North Korea crash landing. Helpless as they watched their friend go down, the other pilots could do nothing but keep on the lookout for Chinese entering the area. 

Initially, they assumed Brown had perished in the crash, but then they saw him waving from below. His leg had been crushed, and he was trapped underneath the burning fuselage, unable to escape. After attempting to radio instructions to help free his friend, Hudner realized he needed to get on the ground if he was to have any effect in trying to rescue his wingman. Hudner then did the inexplicable. He intentionally crashed his plane nearby and ran to help Brown.

Hudner tried, unsuccessfully, to free Brown from the wreck and then attempted to fill the cockpit by hand with snow to quench the fire. In intense pain and losing blood, Brown was falling in and out of consciousness. A rescue chopper had been deployed and arrived at the scene, but they were still unable to free the wingman. Brown asked them to amputate his leg before he lost consciousness for the last time. His last words were “tell Daisy I love her.” As darkness fell, they were compelled to leave as the helicopter could not fly at night.

Hudner at the U.S. Naval Academy in December 2008.

Hudner begged the next day to go back and retrieve his friend’s remains, but the threat of a Chinese ambush on the position was high. Commanders could not allow them to lose more pilots or aircraft. Not wanting the body or plane to fall into enemy hands, the US Navy dropped napalm on the position of their fallen comrade. Brown was the first African-American US Navy officer killed in the war. 

Hudner served for 27 years in the US Navy and for his actions that day he was awarded the Medal of Honor. When the USS Jesse Brown was commissioned in Brown’s honor in 1973, Hudner was there to give one last dedication to the friend he could not save.

 

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sjk
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22 Times Dogs Wanted To Be Though But Just Couldn't

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scared dogs

Dogs are tough. At least that's what they want us to think. These dogs discovered they are not exactly the toughest ones in the neighborhood.  


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sjk
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Group Tied To Betsy DeVos Is Trying To Block Feds From Investigating Multilevel Marketers

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Direct sales programs that call themselves “multilevel marketing” (MLM) companies run the gamut from being merely annoying to full-blown pyramid schemes, and the folks at the Federal Trade Commission are responsible for holding MLMs accountable when they cross that line from irksome to illegal. But two pieces of legislation, both backed by a trade group with direct ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are attempting to limit the FTC’s ability to investigate and prosecute rogue MLMs.

One piece of legislation, the Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act, has one of those titles that sounds good until you actually see what it does.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN), claims to restrict certain MLM practices that may cross the line into pyramid scheme territory. However, critics say the text of the bill — purportedly written by an MLM industry trade group with direct connections to the DeVos family — actually makes it easier for bad MLMs to operate with impunity.

One of the most common criticisms of MLMs involves the practice of inventory loading — that’s when the company requires that a sales rep purchase a large amount of product, regardless of their ability to actually sell it to customers. For example, a number of LuLaRoe sellers have complained about having to go deep into debt just in order to make these mandated purchases, only to be left with merchandise they can’t sell and can’t return.

Under the Blackburn bill, an MLM is not a pyramid scheme if it has a “bona fide inventory repurchase agreement,” meaning a program for buying back these unsold items. But critics of the legislation point out that Herbalife — which recently reached a $200 million settlement with the FTC for its bad behavior — had an inventory repurchase agreement that would have complied with the definition that Blackburn is trying to establish.

Additionally, while this bill would not specifically stop the FTC from investigating MLMs, opponents of the measure say that the legislation would certainly impede the agency’s ability to take actions against companies that cross the line.

The Blackburn bill is currently still sitting in committee and, despite an in-person lobbying push in D.C. by the MLM industry last week, will likely not make it to the full House for a vote.

A more insidious piece of legislation — and one that seeks to explicitly limit the FTC’s reach — is not a bill, but an amendment to a house spending bill.

That amendment, introduced by Rep. Joe Moolenaar (MI) and adopted by the House Appropriations Committee without any hearings, is now part of HR 3280, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.

It’s an example of pure pork-barrel politics, tacking a controversial piece of legislation onto a completely unrelated spending bill in order to get it to pass.

What Moolenaar’s amendment does is take the idea established in Blackburn’s bill — that merely having a “bona fide inventory repurchase” program automatically exempts an MLM from being considered a pyramid scheme — and literally blocks the FTC from using any of its federal funding to investigate a company that meets this new definition.

Consumer advocates, including our colleagues at Consumers Union, say that this attempt to redefine a pyramid scheme breaks from all legal understanding of the term.

“The courts have consistently stated that the critical difference between a legitimate MLM business and a pyramid scheme is that a MLM’s revenues must come primarily from the sale of products and services to retail customers unaffiliated with the business opportunity,” explained a coalition of consumer advocacy groups in a July 2017 letter [PDF] to Congressional leadership.

In other words, it’s long been understood that a pyramid scheme occurs when the company at the top is making most of its revenue from making sales to its own sales force, rather than from sales to actual customers. The Blackburn and Moolenaar laws attempt to gloss over this long-held legal standard and swap it with the tangential issue of inventory loading and buy-back programs.

A group of six former high-ranking FTC officials recently expressed their concerns in a letter [PDF] to House leaders Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi that passing the spending bill with the Moolenaar amendment intact could “put practices now recognized as harmful and deceptive beyond the reach of the law.”

The DeVos Connection

Both the Blackburn bill and the Moolenaar amendment have the firm support of the Direct Selling Association, a trade group representing MLM companies. According to Frank VanderSloot, CEO of MLM company Melaleuca — itself a member of the DSA — lawyers for the association are the actual authors of the bill that Blackburn introduced. It’s unclear if the DSA also authored the Moolenaar amendment, but the organization has publicly lobbied in its favor.

What’s the connection to DeVos? DSA’s most prominent member is Amway. Multiple Amway executives hold spots on the DSA’s board of directors, including the board’s chair, who is head of sales for the company.

Secretary Devos’ father-in-law is Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. Her brother-in-law is Amway president Doug DeVos. Her husband is former Amway CEO Dick DeVos. The DeVos family is an owner of Alticor, Amway’s parent company, which reportedly brings in about $9 billion per year.

Even though Dick stepped down as Amway CEO more than a decade ago, the couple still earns millions of dollars a year from, and holds significant assets in, parent company Alticor. According to DeVos’ financial disclosures filing [PDF], the couple holds at least $106 million worth of shares in Alticor, receiving more than $16 million a year in dividend payments from the company.

[h/t NY Post]





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sjk
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Equifax’s top security exec made some big mistakes. Studying music wasn’t one of them.

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Why non-technical degrees in technology aren't a sign of incompetence or weakness.





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sjk
5 days ago
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I am of two minds about this. I recognize that one does not need a STEM college degree to be good at tech. There are people who work here that don't have college degrees but they are very intelligent talented techs. However, that is also a problem. For them to get a higher level job, all the positions require a college degree.

I think if Wendy Nather had a STEM degree and not a Liberal Arts degree, there would not be as much outrage. Maybe she took some management courses somewhere along the way to be qualified to be a CISO? Maybe Equifax hired her because she checked off a box on HR's diversity quota and ignored her lack of qualifications because "my nephew is good at computers so how hard can it be to be a CISO." Who knows? Everyone who does know is in full damage control and cover-up mode.

And just to be contrarian for a moment... People are all in a panic because there are not enough girls in STEM majors and not enough girls in tech. Wendy Nather should be their poster child. Wendy Nather is proof that girls don't have to have a STEM degree to become a C-suite executive and cause the largest breach of Americans' private, personal information in history.

Maybe Wendy Nather is just a terrible manager? Maybe she told her staff to not patch the vulnerability? Maybe she didn't tell the company about the breach for 40 days? We don't know.

While Wendy Nather may be personally responsible for the breach, and it seems the media is making her the scapegoat, the executives who covered up the news and committed securities fraud to profit from the breach should go to prison.
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