Posts tagged with "BBC"

Under AB485, California pet stores are constrained to selling rescue animals

January 3, 2019

Retail pet stores in the Golden State no longer are selling pedigreed poodles or Persian cats on their premises. Under a law effective January 1, known as AB 485, they have been constrained to marketing only dogs, cats, and rabbits obtained from animals shelters or rescue organizations—making California the first state in the union to ban the sale of animals raised in so-called “puppy mills” and other “high-volume” animal breeding facilities.

According to a report by The Cut, the new legislation does not affect sales from private breeders—or from person to person.

Specifically, retail pet stores must stock their dogs, cats, and rabbits from a “public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter,” or a rescue group that is “in a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter.” Any store found to be in violation of the law will be fined $500.

“It takes the emphasis off the profit of animals and puts the emphasis back on caring for and getting these cats and dogs a good home,” Californian Mitch Kentdotson told NBC4 Los Angeles when he and his wife visited the San Diego Humane Society to adopt a kitten last week.

The bill is meant to address the crowded inhumane, unhealthy conditions under which pedigreed animals often have been raised.

So who could object? The new law has its critics, including the American Kennel Club which recently released a statement noting that, “anti-breeder animal rights extremists continuously advocate for incremental breeding and sales restrictions that they hope will eventually lead to outright bans on all animal breeding and ownership.”

The club further noted, “In essence, retail pet store bans … remove available consumer protections for new pet owners, limit the ability of pet owners to obtain the appropriate pet for their lifestyle, and potentially increase public health risks (which are not limited to geopolitical state boundaries).”

Patrick O’Donnell (D-70th District), the California Assembly member who introduced the bill, called its passage a “big win” for “four-legged friends,” and noted that it would save California taxpayers millions of dollars on sheltering animals.

As the BBC notes, the ASPCA estimated that 6.5 million pets enter shelters every year, 1.5 million of which are put down.

While the Humane Society has not yet been contacted by any stores wishing to obtain pets, a spokesperson told The Cut that the organization isn’t yet sure if it would partner with pet stores, saying, “We’re not prepared to do that ourselves, because we have a fairly robust adoption program.”

Research contact: @mmaggeler

‘Swipe right to sue’: Now you can file lawsuits using a smartphone app

October 18, 2018

A new legal-services app enables users to sue just about anyone with their smartphones and to claim awards from class-action lawsuits, much in the same way they would select a match on Tinder —with a quick “swipe right to sue,” the Washington Post reported on October 16.

The app, dubbed DoNotPay, launched this week and already has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, according to creator and founder Joshua Browder—a 21-year-old senior at Stanford University who has been labeled the “Robin Hood of the Internet” by the BBC.

As an 18-year-old, Browder first created a chatbot— a computer program that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual method—that helped drivers to challenge parking tickets in New York, London, and Seattle.

Following that successful trial, he developed another bot to help people sue consumer credit reporting agency Equifax last year, after a data breach left 143 million American consumers vulnerable to identity theft.

He told the Post this week that he came up with the idea for his latest project—available and working in all 50 states —after a number of people used DoNotPay to recoup as much as $11,000 from Equifax, even after the credit reporting agency appealed the suit.

The updates to the “robot lawyer app’ introduced this week allow users to sue a defendant for up to $25,000, the Post reports.

“I think people are really upset with how the legal system works,” Browder said in an interview with the news outlet “Lawyers say this app isn’t necessary, but if your issue is below $10,000, no lawyer is going to help, and if they do they’re going to take 50 percent of what you make.”

“The most popular claims so far involve a merchant breaching a contract, such as United Airlines kicking someone off a flight,” Browder noted. “There [are] a large number of negligence suits, which is very interesting.”

How exactly does the app work?

Once opened, the app tells users they can sue anyone by pressing a button. The app then asks several questions about the nature of the filing, as well as users’ name and location, before asking the user to fill in the amount for which they plan to sue.

After directing the claim into one of 15 separate legal lanes —from automobile accident to recovering personal property—DoNotPay provides the documents necessary to file the suit—among them, a demand letter, county filing documents, and even a strategic script to read in court. Users print out the documents and mail them to the relevant courthouse, setting the lawsuit in motion.

The app can also analyze a user’s receipts and email, and display all the class-action lawsuit settlements they’re eligible for, Browder told the Post.

“In true millennial fashion, the user can then swipe right on lawsuits that interest them (or left if not) and DoNotPay will instantly claim the funds,” he added.

The app is free, and users are allowed to keep any money they recoup. However, if the app offers more specialized services in the future, Browder said, it is possible that they will come with a price tag.

Research contact: Browder@stanford.edu

Russia’s Kalashnikov Group unveils its challenge to Tesla, the CV1

August 27, 2018

The Kalashnikov Group—the Russian manufacturer of the infamous AK-47 assault rifle—has unveiled a prototype of a retro-style electric sedan that it claims can compete with the Tesla’s range, which is about 300 miles on one charge.

The electric vehicle (EV) —dubbed the CV1—was unveiled at an exhibition of Russian defense and civilian products just outside Moscow on August 23, CNBC reports. Kalashnikov said in a statement on its website that the design of its “revolutionary cutting-edge supercar” was inspired by a Soviet hatchback created in the 1970s.

According to the BBC, the company told reporters attending the expo that the car featured technology that would “let us stand in the ranks of global electric car producers such as Tesla,” adding, that, “when fully developed, the car [will] have a top speed several times higher than current electric vehicles produced … and [will] be able to travel 220 miles (350 km) on a single charge.”

Right now, the CV1 can reach 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in six seconds.

Social media users quickly took to the company’s Facebook page to share their thoughts on Russia’s answer to Tesla, the BBC said, with some commenting on its “funny Zombie-like” design, while others praised its “cool” appearance.

“Your tanks are great, but it would be better if you stayed away from cars,” one user wrote. Another asked Elon Musk for his opinion on the prototype.

This is not the first EV prototype introduced in Russia. In August 2016, the Russian company AvtoVAZ presented its EV prototype for the Lada Vesta. This is the second electric car made by the Tolyatti-based  manufacturer. ElLada was the first, appearing as a prototype in 2012, and which was based on the popular Lada Kalina.

Research contact: @KalashnikovGS

Say what? 14 words you ought to know now

August 16, 2018

Is your vocabulary keeping up with the latest in 21st century lexicon—or are your language skills still stuck in the past? At a time when the world is changing more quickly than ever before, Cameron Laux of the BBC has identified 14 words that we all should know how to use in a conversation.

  • Hyperobject: This term was coined by the academic Timothy Morton, who is a professor of English at Houston’s Rice University. It refers to phenomena that are so large and so far beyond the human frame of reference that they are not susceptible to reason. He gives as an example global warming (which he also calls ‘the end of the world’), a phenomenon instigated by humanity, but in the context of which we may now be insignificant.
  • Catfishing: This word describes people who construct false identities online in order to lure contacts into continued messaging or correspondence—thereby building false relationships with them, often in order to fleece them out of their life savings.
  • Woke: As in “roused to political self-awareness,” with the hopeful connotation that one won’t be going back to sleep anytime soon. The term originated during the US black civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, although the lyrics of the 2008 Erykah Badu song, Master Teacher, have been identified as the most important recent source. The term made a second-wave comeback in 2013, when the U.S. Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the rage inflamed by the shooting death of 17-year-old hoodie-wearing, unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. From there, the term has been making the short jump to describe other second- (e.g., LGBT) and third- (e.g., #Me Too) phase civil rights movements. The goal is to go beyond feeling tolerated to being fully accepted and welcomed.
  • The new weird: An emerging wave of speculative, “post-human” writing that blurs genre boundaries and conventions, pushes humanity from the center to the margins, and generally poses questions that may not be answerable in any terms we can understand (hence, the ‘weird’). The approach is bleeding into television narratives (see Westworld Fargo, and Legion).
  • Deletion: This word is likely to be bandied about frequently, as social media users absorb the fact that the websites they are on are not just neutral “platforms for social interaction”—but have become an addiction that hooks them and all of their personal data. The only solution is to delete personal accounts.
  • Autofiction: Writing that merges autobiography and fiction; and freely transgresses other genre boundaries, as well. The term was coined in the avant-garde literary world of France in the 1970s, but it has come to be applied to contemporary fiction dominated by the author’s unreliable subjectivity. (The approach also strongly influenced Lena Dunham, the creator of the HBO TV series, Girls, and has given rise to a genre of introspective, navel-gazing television.)
  • Coping, hoping, doping, and shopping: Everyone is picking on poor old capitalism these days, but, perhaps chief among its critics is Wolfgang Streeck, a German sociologist who is the director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies. Streeck believes that capitalism is going to experience crashes of increasing severity within the next 100 years, leaving us all to survive with mounting anxiety amidst its wreckage. As a consequence, our life options are gradually being reduced to a regime of coping (getting by, “gigging”), hoping (because we’re human and alive, and have no choice), doping (drugs, alcohol, gaming, social media), and shopping (relentless consumption).
  • Gaslighting: In Director George Cukor’s 1944 film, Gaslight, a man attempts to convince his wife that she’s insane in order to get her committed to an asylum and swindle her out of her money. “Fake news” could be described as a direct descendent of gaslighting—which has become a byword for psychological manipulation.
  • Shadow banking: This term comprises any financial transactions carried out by institutions that don’t have a formal banking license—in other words, payments companies (e.g., credit card companies, insurance companies, PayPal) that are not directly regulated or overseen by the government. We can also add to this the vast dark-financial realm of over-the-counter (OTC) transactions (including derivatives that are almost too complex for anyone, inside or outside the business, to understand) that are technically between two parties and therefore off government radar.
  • Digital design ethics: Referring to the growing “attention crisis”’—the fact that no one can take their eyes off their smartphones—this term describes the integrity (or lack thereof) of marketers focused on engrossing users in platforms on which the main aim is to exploit vulnerabilities in our willpower and manipulate us into buying things. The idea that human rights, should be extended to cyberspace is gaining traction.
  • Post-human: Our identities now extend into cyberspace in many ways—and we no longer merely rely on our brain cells to store memories and information; but now store much of our knowledge in technological clouds that function as extensions of our minds. We live with the corresponding hardware in such intimacy (in the form of portable devicesthat it sometimes feels as oif we are only a few steps away from being “cyborgs” in the true sense of the term.
  • Masculinity: Until very recently, this has seemed to be a straightforward word, with a clear definition—not feminine and not LGBTQ. These days it is increasingly a good thing (and a politically correct thing) to place yourself in either of these categories. However, both are eating away at the old territory occupied by masculinity, and what remains is something of a void, (e.g., “the crisis of masculinity”). The challenge ahead for men is to formulate what they are and want to be, rather than what they aren’t.
  • Generation Why?: This pun used to refer to Millennials, but now applies to anyone born in the digital age.
  • Ghosting: In the 2017 film A Ghost Story, a happy man dies suddenly in a car accident and becomes a ghost. He returns to his family home to linger spectrally under a generic bed sheet with eyeholes cut in it, a ghost of a ghost, and watch helplessly life goes on without him. Hovering in his sheet, he is the essence of loneliness. He is trapped in a supernatural realm, with no human interaction. Maybe the stark truth is that he has been “ghosted.” Nobodyis returning his text messages and he is trapped in digital limbo.

Research contact: @BBC