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Monthly Archives: September 2017

Uber Loses License To Operate In London, Affecting 40k Drivers, 3.5 Million Passengers

London’s governing body responsible for transportation, Transport for London (TfL), has yanked Uber’s license to operate in the city, affecting nearly 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million passengers. Uber has 21 days to appeal TfL’s decision, and will be allowed to operate throughout the appeals process.

The decision was made on the grounds of “public safety and security implications,” following several incidents of sexual assault committed by Uber drivers against passengers.

London Mayor, Sadiq Kahn commented on the decision, stating “I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.”

“Public safety and security”

Between May 2015 and May 2016, UK police had investigated 32 drivers for rape or sexual assault of a passenger according to a report by The Sun last year.

Last month, UK’s Metro Police inspector, Neil Billany, informed TfL of his concern over Uber’s handling of claims against its drivers – noting that the ride sharing service continued to employ a driver after he was accused of sexual assault. The same driver proceeded to rape a second female passenger before he was fired.

“By not reporting to police promptly, Uber are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public,” wrote inspector Billany.

Sneaky Uber, tricks are for governments

Uber was also caught using a tool called “greyball” last March in the United States, which uses personal data to ensure that Uber drivers don’t pick up local government officials or their associates in order to circumvent local and state regulations where the service is not licensed to operate.

In the U.S. it was found to be in use in Portland, Philadelphia, Boston, and Las Vegas, while internationally the greyball system was deployed in France, Australia, China, South Korea and Italy.

Uber denies using the software in the UK, however the TfL expressed concern over Uber’s “approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London.”


The TfL also informed Uber this month that thousands of drivers had submitted invalid identities for background checks. The drivers were given 28 days to reapply before losing their license – a moot point now.

The Sun also reported that many Uber drivers had obtained falsified medical certificates, clearing them for work.

Sexual harassment in and out of cars

Last but not least, Uber has been rocked by reports of sexual harassment and sexism among upper management. Former engineer Susan Fowler wrote a 3,000 word blog post which tears the ‘toxic culture’ in Uber’s Silicon Valley office.

“I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.”

On my last day at Uber, I calculated the percentage of women who were still in the org. Out of over 150 engineers in the SRE teams, only 3% were women.  –Susan Fowler

Let’s be fair though…

32 people under investigation for sexual assault out of 40,000 Uber drivers is just 0.008 percent of its London workforce. Out of any population of 40,000 taxi drivers, what’s typical?

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, there are 1,000 taxis licensed to operate, and there have been 12 reported cases of sexual assault in the last four years – a rate of 1.2%.

In 2013, the Gatestone Institute reported in 2013 that in the UK, “No woman is safe in a cab,” following a 2011 London Metro Police estimate an average of 1,125 sexual assaults per year committed by London cab drivers, out of roughly 104,000 total cab drivers in the city – a rate of just over 1 percent, in line with Halifax.

So, 0.008 percent of Uber drivers are sexually assaulting passengers – at a rate far lower than average, and London pulls their license to operate.

Looks like non-Uber cabbies in London can knock back a pint or two over their recent windfall – assuming of course that Uber loses their appeal.

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S&P Downgrades China As Dangerous Debt Bubble Looms, China Calls a ‘Wrong Decision’

S&P Global Ratings has downgraded China sovereign debt from A+ to AA-, following through on a warning issued earlier in the year after the country failed in an endeavor to ‘de-risk’ the country by reigning in its debt-fueled growth.

Via Reuters

“Despite the fact that the government has shown greater resolve to implement the deleveraging policy, we continue to see overall credit in the corporate sector to stay at a 9 percent point”, Kim Eng Tan, an S&P senior director of sovereign ratings, said in a conference call to discuss the one-notch downgrade to A+ from AA-.

China’s new bank lending and total social financing (TSF) – a broad indicator of credit and liquidity, will set record highs again in 2017 following record lending of 12.65 trillion yuan ($1.84 trillion USD) – roughly the size of Italy’s economy. TSF also hit a new record at 17.8 trillion yuan ($2.7 trillion USD).

According to Kim Eng Tan, senior director of sovereign ratings at S&P, China has allowed lending to grow unchecked while at the same time neglecting to deleverage and de-risk its existing debt structures.

“We’ve now come to the conclusion that while we do expect some deleveraging in the next few years, this deleveraging is likely to be much more gradual than we thought could have been the case early this year,” Tan said, adding that rising bank lending “was the key metric that we look at…and we believe while this growth of aggregate debt financing could come down somewhat over the next few years, it’s not likely to come down very sharply.”

They mad

China scoffed at the S&P downgrade, calling it a ‘wrong decision’ that ignores China’s growth and treats them like children.

Bloomberg writes:

The government is fully capable of maintaining financial stability if it remains prudent on lending, strengthens supervision, and controls credit risk, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement Friday, a day after S&P cut China’s sovereign rating for the first time since 1999. The decision is “perplexing” because the economy is on a solid footing, the ministry said.

China can maintain reasonable credit growth, and S&P also ignores the characteristics of the country’s financing structure, the ministry said. Under the Budget Law, the debt of local government financing vehicles should be paid by those state-owned enterprises themselves, and local governments don’t shoulder the liabilities, it said.
If it remains prudent…
They don’t sound very confident.
Interestingly enough, China’s state run news agency Xinhua responded to the S&P downgrade, calling S&P’s concerns over the need to deleverage and prevent local government debt risk a “friendly reminder.”
Meanwhile, that bubble…
Zerohedge reported in August  that China ‘by far is the biggest credit bubble in the world today.’

There are many indicators signaling that the bursting of the China credit bubble is imminent, which we also enumerate. The bursting of the China credit bubble poses tremendous risk of global contagion because it coincides with record valuations for equities, real estate, and risky credit around the world.

We believe this has been a centrally planned misallocation of capital into white elephant, unproductive fixed-asset infrastructure projects that on balance will likely not ever generate sufficient return on investment to justify their cost. The penalty will come from China’s future economic growth.

In our analysis, the Chinese economy today is a classic Ponzi finance regime as described by Minsky and has been so in an egregious way since 2008. At the center of China’s credit bubble is its massive and opaque financial sector. The China Banking Regulatory Commission reports that the Chinese banking system had USD 35 trillion in on-balance-sheet banking assets through the first quarter of 2017. This is an incredible more-than-fourfold bank-credit expansion since 2008 as we show in the chart below. As a result, based on the ratio of on-balance-sheet banking assets to GDP, China’s banking bubble today is more than three times larger than the US banking bubble prior to the global financial crisis!

Just as alarming as China’s on-balance-sheet banking assets are China’s shadow banking assets. The British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, recently broke a story based on an apparent leak of the People’s Bank of China’s 2017 Annual Financial Stability Report completed in June. The PBOC report allegedly showed that off-balance sheet banking assets in China have risen to somewhere between USD 30 and 40 trillion recently. These figures have yet to be confirmed or denied because the actual PBOC report has apparently been concealed by the PBOC and the IMF. Including both on-balance sheet and shadow bank assets shown below, the Telegraph story claims that “Chinese banks have built up exposure to assets equal to 650% of GDP”. The amount of shadow banking assets in China had been more widely recognized before the PBOC report to be only USD 9 trillion. If the amount that China’s off-balance sheet banking assets have risen to even half as much as the Telegraph reported – see the chart below (about USD 37 trillion is what it shows) – China would have recently had a shadow-banking gap that is even more concerning than the credit-to-GDP gap flagged by the BIS.

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iPhone 8 Launch In Sydney A Total Disaster $AAPL

The Sydney, Australia launch of Apple’s new iPhone 8 was met with crickets Friday, as nobody wanted to wait in line for a phone with features Samsung has offered for two years or more, such as wireless charging and facial recognition.

Apple customers camp outside of Sydney’s flagship Apple store on the first day the iPhone 8 went on sale in Sydney, Australia, September 22, 2017. AAP/Joel Carrett/via REUTERS

Hundreds of people have historically gathered at the Sydney Apple store for new releases, with lines of camped out iFanatics stretching down the street for blocks.

On Friday, fewer than 30 people were standing outside of the store before it opened, a witness told Reuters. The first customer in line, Mazen Kourouche, started camping outside the store eleven days ago, thinking he’d beat the crowds. Karouche reviewed the phone on YouTube, and said there were ‘modest refinements.’

“(It) is pretty similar to the iPhone 7 but it shoots 4k 60 frames per second and it’s got a new glass back instead of the metal which is apparently more durable,” he told Reuters. “There aren’t too many new features to this one.”

Bad crowds, poor reviews

If the dismal turnout in Sydney wasn’t enough, the iPhone 8 has been receiving poor reviews – driving shares down to lows of $152.75 on Thursday, the lowest it’s been in almost two months.

iTWire.com’s tech editor Alex Zaharov-Reutt suggested that the iPhone 8 may have a limited audience of ‘those who ant a new version but do not want to pay a hefty $999 for the iPhone X,’ adding ‘Yes there is a new iPhone coming in a couple of months and plenty of people would want that.’

Tim Cook has called the new iPhone X ‘the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.’

We’ll see how the lines go…

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N. Korea May Test ‘Most Powerful’ H-Bomb In Pacific Following Trump Speech, Heightened Sanctions

North Korea may conduct ‘the most powerful test of a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean,’ as part of it’s ‘highest-level’ actions threatened against the united States, said the regime’s top diplomat on Thursday, speaking from New York.

The comments by North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho followed a fiery exchange between U.S. President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Ri told reporters. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong-un.”

President Trump did not mince words this week in front of the UN General Assembly, warning that he would “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies. The tough talk was followed by heightened sanctions on the regime, barring individuals, companies and banks from doing business with North Korea.

Kim responded to Trump’s remarks with a poorly translated screed, calling the U.S. President ‘mentally deranged,’ while threatening the ‘highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.’

Banks face a choice, China picks a side

Bloomberg reports that foreign banks will need to choose between North Korea and the United States, after Trump signed an executive order authorizing the U.S. Treasury to prohibit any foreign individual or entity that does business with North Korea from the U.S. financial system – including foreign banks.

“Foreign banks will face a clear choice: Do business with the United States or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea,” Trump said. “The regime can no longer count on others to facilitate its trade and banking activities.”

And I’m very proud to tell you that, as you may have just heard moments ago, China, their central bank has told their other banks — that’s a massive banking system — to immediately stop doing business with North Korea,” he added. “This just happened. It was just reported.”

Trump praised Chinese president Xi Jinping for a “very bold move” in acting to cut off financial ties with North Korea and said it was “somewhat unexpected.”

The new Executive Order also mandates that vessels and aircraft which visit North Korea or engage in ship-to-ship transfers with another ship that has visited North Korea to be banned from the U.S. for 180 days.

More sanctions to come? 

Bloomberg also reports that the EU is considering adding sanctions against North Korea, in particular a ban on EU exports of oil to the DPRK, according to Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfanso.

Someone call Rodman, things are getting out of hand.


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Facebook To Turn Over 3,000 ‘Russian Troll-Farm’ Ads To Congress

Prospective presidential candidate and possible alien Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be handing over the contents of 3,000 ads purchased by ‘inauthentic accounts’ from the social media giant prior to the 2016 election, which Facebook attributed to a Russian ‘troll farm’ with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda.

Congress, in turn, will surely mandate that Facebook keep a short leash on opinions deemed to be “hateful,” “discriminatory,” or “Russian” leading into the 2018 midterm elections and of course, the 2020 Presidential race. There are, after all, dangerous communist opinions afoot that might once again convince gullible Americans to elect the wrong person.

As iBankCoin previously reported, Facebook claimed in early September over $100,000 worth of ads were sold to a “Russian bot farm” – most of which were purchased in 2015 and did not appear to favor any particular candidate, according to the company.

“Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia,” said Facebook Chief Security Officer, Alex Stamos.

Of note:

  • The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.
  • Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.
  • About one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016.
  • The behavior displayed by these accounts to amplify divisive messages was consistent with the techniques mentioned in the white paper we [Facebook] released in April about information operations.

If true, the implication is that Russia was trying to whip Americans into a political frenzy a year before the election – regardless of the candidates or eventual president.

Facebook rule changes

In conjunction with today’s announcement regarding dangerous Russian thoughts, Zuckerberg announced a series of rule changes on Facebook which he said he hoped would guard against future election interference.

More rule changes via NPR: 

Users have been able to look up the company behind an ad they see, but now they will also be able to see who else was targeted by that company. A move that might give people get a sense of the motivations of the advertiser.

Other steps Zuckerberg announced include stronger policies for review at the company for political ads and it will add another 250 employees to focus on election integrity and security.

In a nod to Facebook’s failure previously to guard against state actors using the site to interfere with elections, Zuckerberg said, “It’s a new challenge for Internet communities.” But, he said, “If that’s what we must do then we are committed to rising to the occasion.”

Don’t forget to check out Zuck’s latest exploits as he travels the country proving he is a likable human who wants to protect you from communist thoughts. 

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Check Out Porche’s $16 Million Superyacht, Complete With Carbon Fiber Furniture

German automaker Porsche is venturing into the world of super-yachts – at least seven of them anyway.

Launched at Viareggio, Italy, Porsche’s 114-foot long entry into boating, the Dynamiq GTT 115, will set owners back £12million ($16 million USD) and features a spa pool, al-fresco dining area and space for up to four guests below decks.

The boat is painted with what Porsche calls Rhodium Grey metallic paint, with the hull given a distinctive curved shape

The Daily Mail reports that the stunning craft was launched at Viareggio, in Italy, and will now travel to Monaco in time for the annual Yacht Show which runs from September 27 to 30.

The German car-maker says the boat was designed for ‘car lovers and forward-thinking yacht owners who appreciate the advantages of speed, style and our philosophy of intelligent performance.’

Interior styling was taken care of by Italian design-house Minotti, whose works appeared in the film Fifty Shades Darker, and features carbon fibre detailing, marble counter-tops, and fine leather finishes.

More photos of the beast

The yacht, dubbed GTT 115, was constructed by shipmakers Dynamiq who debuted at the Mocaco Yacht Show last year

The spa pool is located at the front of the yacht, while the dining area will be under the covered portion to the rear

Whoever is lucky enough to get their hands on one of the seven vessels to be constructed will have a choice of installing three or four bedrooms below deck, depending on how many people they want to share their new toy with
Inside there is a spacious ‘saloon’ and meeting area where the proud new owner can entertain guests with panoramic views of the surrounding ocean thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass windows
The interior styling has been perfected by Italian fashion house Minotti and features wood flooring, marble countertops, carbon fibre detailing and leather furniture finishes
Powerful 1,650hp engines provide a top speed of 21 knots, while its hybrid engines give a range of 3,400 nautical miles
An artist’s impression of the finished craft shows where all of the luxury fittings will be located across two decks

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Mercedes Takes On Tesla, Sinks $1 Billion Into Electric Production In Alabama

Interior of Mercedes EQC Concept Vehicle

Diamler AG announced plans to spend $1 billion producing Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles in Alabama – pitting the world’s largest luxury-car company against Tesla, Inc. ($TSLA), whose flagship Model S sedan outsold both the Mercedes S-Class BMW 7-series last year in the U.S.

The announcement comes on the heels of a 10 billion Euro commitment to green cars – unveiling an electric hatchback SUV at this month’s Frankfurt auto show.


The German automaker also plans to build its fifth global battery plant at the Alabama site slated for the assembly of electric SUVs, creating over 600 jobs while directly competing with Tesla’s Model X.

“We’re celebrating our 20th anniversary at our production facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and we’re taking this as an opportunity to expand the operation and further fuel growth,” production chief Markus Schaefer said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “We’re very confident for future growth in the U.S. in the long-term. ”

Diamler gearing up for a surge in electric

Diamler’s $1 billion investment is the latest evidence of the carmaker’s global shift towards electric vehicles.

The German luxury-car maker has announced deposits on its upcoming SUV in Norway, likely to bear the “EQC” badge, after the Northern European nation instituted a ban on fossil-fuel powered cars by 2025. Customers can plunk down a refundable $2,560 down payment towards the vehicle, set for delivery sometime in 2019.

The EQC is expected to have a range between 250 and 310 miles, and will be powered by two electric motors producing 405 horsepower through an all-wheel drivetrain.

Battery packs on the EQC is expected to have a capacity of more than 70 killowatt-hours, and have fast-charging capabilities providing 62 miles of range in just 5 minutes.

Self driving electric someday?

In March, San Francisco residents glimpsed the future, as a Mercedes-Benz driverless concept car – the F015 Luxury in Motion, was spotted driving around town.

Once Mercedes figures out how to make these self-driving electric vehicles fly, it’s basically the Jetsons.

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SEC: Hackers May Have Used Inside Information For ‘Illicit Gains’

The Securities and Exchange Commission quietly announced on Wednesday night that a 2016 breach of their online filing system, EDGAR, resulted in “access to nonpublic information” which may have been used for “illicit gain through trading.”

While the hack took place last August, the SEC apparently didn’t figure out until recently that the hackers may have used the nonpublic filings to profit from movements in the market – according to a 5,000 word statement on cybersecurity released at 11 p.m. EST on Wednesday. Buried within the report, 1500 words in, is one paragraph disclosing the hack.

“In August 2017, the Commission learned that an incident previously detected in 2016 may have provided the basis for illicit gain through trading.  Specifically, a software vulnerability in the test filing component of our EDGAR system, which was patched promptly after discovery, was exploited and resulted in access to nonpublic information.  We believe the intrusion did not result in unauthorized access to personally identifiable information, jeopardize the operations of the Commission, or result in systemic risk.  Our investigation of this matter is ongoing, however, and we are coordinating with appropriate authorities.”

Insecurity Everywhere

Between the 8,000 documents posted by Wikileaks detailing the CIA’s own hacking methods, a 2015 breach of the Office of Personal Management in which sensitive data on 21 million people was stolen, and several state websites which were hacked with a pro-ISIS message – one thing is clear; our ‘trusted’ government institutions need to beef up their cybersecurity.

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North Korea’s Greatest Offense: $156,000 In Unpaid NYC Parking Tickets

Forget the nukes and the ill fitting uniforms, North Korea has committed perhaps the greatest offense known to Donald Trump’s home state – stiffing New York on over $156,000 in unpaid parking tickets dating back to the 1990s.

The peacocked investigators at New York’s NBC 4 uncovered more than 1,300 parking violations racked up by the regime.

A man who identified himself as secretary of North Korea’s UN mission told channel 4 that the ticket information must be in error because New York City has the right to pull diplomatic parking privileges from countries which accumulate too many tickets.

“It’s not true,” Jong Jo said. “It is false. Whenever we have a ticket, we pay. Because, you know, if we have three tickets the city does not allow us to renew their permission.” –NBC 4

While this is true today, most of the tickets were issued before New York City and the U.S. State Department agreed upon the rule in 2002.

Know thy enemy

North Korea isn’t the only country skipping out on parking tickets;

Among the notable scofflaws:

  • Syria, with $362,550 in parking debt
  • Iran, with $184,987 in parking debt
  • Russia, with $104,231 in parking debt
  • China, with $398,736 in parking debt

How does it feel, New Yorkers, to know that YOU are expected to pay for that 16 minute ticket in a 15 minute zone – with a bonus penalty if it isn’t 30 days, while enemies of the United States make a mockery of our laws?

The U.S. State department takes the issue ‘very seriously,’ mind you – issuing a statement saying just that, with the caveat that diplomats can do whatever the fuck they want:

“The Department strictly enforces the rules and associated consequences concerning our extension of driving privileges to foreign mission members in the United States. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, meaning we ensure that, irrespective to an individuals’ entitlement to immunity, there are consequences when a foreign mission member fails to comply with U.S. motor vehicle laws.. . . With this said, it is important for police to treat foreign diplomatic and consular personnel with respect. It is not an exaggeration to say that police handing of incidents in this country could have a direct effect on the treatment of US diplomatic and consular personnel serving abroad.”

Keep paying your parking tickets plebs. Until you’re a petulant dictator lobbing missiles over Japan, you’re just another cog in the machine.

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Maria Pummels Puerto Rico With Force ‘Not Seen In Modern History’

Hurricane Maria savaged Puerto Rico Wednesday with a direct hit at Catagory Four, leaving the island without power in what is being called the ‘worst storm in living memory’ to hit the bankrupt U.S. territory that is home to 3.4 million people.

“There is no power on the island and there is very little communications,” according to Ricardo Castrodad, a public health official with the US Coast Guard’s San Juan sector.

Thousands fled to shelters as the storm caused flooding in the capital, after killing at least nine people in the Caribbean earlier in the week.

Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz broke down in tears as she described the utter devastation she witnessed.

“Many parts of San Juan are completely flooded,” Yulin Cruz told reporters, adding “Our life as we know it has changed… There is a lot of pain and a lot of devastation.”

Initially gusting near Category Five speeds of 150 mph (240 kph), the storm slowed down a bit when it hit San Juan.

“The wind sounds like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs!” Mike Theiss wrote on Twitter, sheltering in a safe room in the eye of the storm.

“We are getting absolutely hammered right now.”

Imy Rigau, who was riding out the storm in her apartment in San Juan, said water had “cascaded” through her ceiling.

“We are taking refuge in the hallway as there is about a foot of water in my apartment,” she told AFP.

“I boarded up the windows but with all of this, it seems they are going to be blown away. One of them was smashed up, so we are here in the hallway where there are no windows.” Yahoo

Limited shelters

Residents took cover in the 500 shelters around the island as officials warned of massive flooding and an announced overnight curfew in effect till Saturday.

Governor Ricardo Rossello implored residents to remain civil, stating “I urge the people of Puerto Rico to commit to peace, understanding, and good judgment during these difficult times for our island.”

Footage from the island




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