Google Under More Pressure From European Governments
Apr30

Google Under More Pressure From European Governments

The upper house of France’s parliament has voted to require search engines to reveal the inner workings of their ranking algorithms to ensure they are fair and non-discriminatory. While the law, if passed, would apply to all search engines, it is clearly aimed at Google, which dominates 90% of the search market in the country. “We’re transparent about what ranks well on Google, including when we make changes, but by definition, not everyone can come at the top of the rankings,” Google spokesperson Caroline Matthews was quoted as responding by CNN Money. “Revealing our algorithms — our intellectual property — would lead to the gaming of our results, which would be a bad experience for users.” The bill also proposes that search companies be required to post three links to their competitors, and was introduced as an amendment on a measure intended to bolster the French economy. The penalty for not complying with the law would be a fine of 10% of the search company’s global profits. The bill is unlikely to be signed into law, however, as it is opposed by President Francois Hollande’s administration. The vote came just one day after the European Union’s Competition Commission (an anti-trust organization) adopted a Statement of Objections over Google’s shopping results. The basis of that complaint is that Google favors its own results above those of its competitors. “Dominance as such is not a problem, not in general, and not under EU law. However dominant companies have a responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition either in the market where they are dominant or in neighboring markets,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at a press conference. This isn’t the first time that the EU has taken a stand against American tech companies. And since 93% of online experiences begin on search engines and Google is such a dominant search engine, Google is often seen as a stand-in for Internet enterprise as a whole. If it loses against the commission, Google could face a fine of $6 billion — about a quarter’s worth of profits — and would be required to modify how it displays results in Europe. Results in the United States would remain...

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Connecticut Vape Shops May Soon Need Licensing to Sell E-Cigs and Vaporizers
Apr30

Connecticut Vape Shops May Soon Need Licensing to Sell E-Cigs and Vaporizers

The state of Connecticut needs money, and they’re looking to the vaping industry to fill in those funding gaps. On Monday, April 27, members of the finance & bonding committee in the state’s legislature heard testimony from vape shop owners and others who sell e-cigarettes and vaporizers, all of whom were opposed to a new proposal targeting vendors of these tobacco-free products. If the proposal passes, the state would force vendors to pay $100 to register and then another $500 for a license to sell the products. The measure would affect about 50 stores in Connecticut that sell e-cigarettes and a number of the unique vaporizers available on the market. However, there are also hundreds of gas stations and convenience stores throughout the state that also sell these products. In the United States, there are an estimated 16,000 vape shops throughout the country, according to the Smoke-Free Alternative Trade Association. Nick Ricciardi, who owns three shops in the state, said that he understands the state’s need for money, but he doesn’t approve of the methods being used to target vape suppliers. These devices can sell for anywhere from $50 to $100 to upwards of $450 to $800 for some of the more advanced systems like a model by vape company Evo. “I understand where it’s coming from as a Connecticut resident,” he said. “The state needs money. They need to raise funds. We just want to make sure that they’re doing it on an equal playing field scale.” Ricciardi also explained the need for lawmakers to separate vaping products from tobacco ones. “Too many people try to lump us in with tobacco. We are not tobacco. We are anti-tobacco in fact,” he said. But supporters of the new measure state that e-cigarettes, because they contain nicotine, aren’t any healthier than cigarettes. The American Lung Association says that vaporizer fluid (called “e-liquid”) contains carcinogens and doesn’t necessarily lead to quitting smoking, something that proponents of the device claim it helps with. Some lawmakers in Connecticut agree with Ricciardi and others. State Rep. Jeffrey Berger, who chairs the committee on tax policy for General Assembly, says that vaporizers and e-cigs shouldn’t be lumped in with tobacco cigarettes and thus shouldn’t be taxed as such. However, he does agree with the state’s move to license stores that sell vaping products in order to give the industry some legitimacy. “This is a way that the committee needs to move forward both on the revenue side and the accountability side,” Berger...

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Federal Courts Issue Landmark Decision for South Dakota American Indians
Apr30

Federal Courts Issue Landmark Decision for South Dakota American Indians

A federal judge recently made a landmark ruling that will significantly impact the way South Dakota state officials handle Native American child-custody cases. According to Indian Country Today, Chief United States District Judge Jeffrey Viken ruled that state officials violated numerous provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and violated Native American parents’ rights under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. Judge Viken referenced “widespread and systemic failure” to protect the integrity of Native American families in his ruling. South Dakota’s Department of Social Services was discovered to have been forcibly removing more than 740 Native American children from their homes annually, overwhelmingly placing them in white foster homes. Little to no efforts were made to keep families together, and the state would often refrain from seeking expert testimony on whether the Indian parent or guardian is likely to physically or emotionally endanger his or her child. Additionally, officials had been denying Indian parents and guardians their right to a fair hearing, according to PeoplesWorld.com. In most cases, parents were denied the right to even speak in custody hearings, and were not permitted to see the Indian Child Welfare Act petition or the supporting affidavit filed against their ability to parent. Before the ICWA’s passing, anywhere from 25 – 35% of Native American children were removed from their families and placed with non-Indian foster families, from which they never returned. The law, passed in 1978, was Congress’s effort to end “institutionalized anti-Indian racism” present in state custody courts. Many South Dakota judges would openly state in court that they would not recognize the ICWA in their jurisdictions. This is the first time the U.S. Department of Justice has intervened in a federal court case that involved the ICWA, making Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Luann Van Hunnik a truly historic case. Experts indicate that this case’s outcome will likely have repercussions nationwide, not just in South Dakota. “Judge Viken’s powerful ruling is important, not just for tribal members in South Dakota but for Native people everywhere,” Barbara Atwood, the Mary Anne Richey Professor Emerita of Law and director of the Family and Juvenile Certificate Program at the University of Arizona School of Law, said. “The decision shines a light on [the] apparently rampant abuses of the emergency removal provision under the Indian Child Welfare...

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Fort Worth Elementary School To Receive Needed Roof Repairs and Renovations
Apr29

Fort Worth Elementary School To Receive Needed Roof Repairs and Renovations

Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary isn’t like most primary schools in the United States: located in Fort Worth, TX, the building is actually underground, leaving only cars, a community garden and playground equipment visible at its street-level doorway. Unfortunately, ever since the school was built in the early 1980s, it has suffered numerous maintenance problems, including leaks, floods and a crumbling roof. Currently, around 349 elementary school students attend classes every day underneath a giant slab of concrete on the the east side of Fort Worth. Problems with traditional roofs can often be identified by cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing and worn areas around chimneys, pipes, and skylights, and this concrete cover is surprisingly no different: the sealant is cracking in places, leaving the roof open to water damage. Over the years, this has caused heavy water stains to form on some of the walls. Large towels are now rolled up against the walls to soak up the water that comes in when it rains. “I remember the parents and teachers would call every time it rained because water would come in inside the classroom and they would have to mop before they started school,” board member Christene Moss told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fortunately, Van Zandt recently received some good news: the district plans to spend almost $10 million on upgrades and improvements on the building, including a two-story, wraparound addition with 14 classrooms.The renovations will be funded with a $490 million capital improvement program approved by voters in 2012. This change comes in light of the district’s decision to send more than 200 additional students to Van Zandt from I.M. Terrell Elementary School in Fall 2016. Terrell will instead serve as the site of two academies: the Visual and Performing Arts Center and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy. Meanwhile, Van Zandt will receive an additional 28,000 square feet, creating room for a total capacity of 650 students. The school will also receive classrooms dedicated to music, art and special education, as well as windows cut into the concrete panels to help the building access natural light. Other changes to the building’s exterior will include a dedicated entrance, walkway and potentially a rooftop garden. District residents were assured that advances in roof technology would be used to prevent further water damage and other problems. The project is being designed by Perkins Will, a Dallas-based architecture and design...

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Eva Longoria Teams Up With JC Penney to Create Bedding Collection
Apr29

Eva Longoria Teams Up With JC Penney to Create Bedding Collection

Actress, cookbook author, and perfume designer Eva Longoria is now adding bedding designer to her growing resume. Longoria, best known for her role as Gabrielle Solis on “Desperate Housewives,” has teamed up with department store JC Penney to create a new collection of bedding. The partnership is expected to help JC Penney’s declining sales, which took a hit in the Home section when the retailer redesigned that section of their stores — which customers hated. After returning to the former design, JC Penney’s hopes to recover some sales from their Hispanic customer base. Longoria is a ninth-generation Texan, who says she’s been preparing to design a bedding collection her whole life. She told the Dallas Morning News that she spent her childhood in Corpus Christi sewing her own curtains, pillows, and duvet covers. “Decorative pillows were my specialty,” Longoria explained. “I used to make them for friends, too.” Decorative pillows are an easy way to add a pop of color, print, or pattern to a room’s overall design, and the designs of Longoria’s collection draw from her experiences traveling the world. Liz Sweney, JC Penney’s chief merchant says that though the store generally avoids working with celebrities and prefers to work with designers, the actress is a draw for the Hispanic customer base. “Once in a while there are people who are style influencers that we want to work with,” Sweney said. “Longoria is smart and accomplished. She has a broad customer appeal and she sews.” JC Penney has identified the Hispanic community, which is projected to have a $1.5 trillion in buying power this year, as the company’s “brand muse.” NBC Today reports that the comforters range from $129.99 to $169.99 and throw pillows are $34.99 to $39.99. Both are available for sale...

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