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Friday, August 26, 2016

GM’S MAVEN CAR-Share Service Drives 4.2 MILLION Miles in 7 Months


General Motors is one of those big long-running companies with a legitimate century-plus worth of history behind it. But being founded in 1908 doesn’t mean it’s too set in certain ways that it wouldn’t think of trying something new. This latest new thing came about in January of this year, in the form of a quality car sharing service called Maven, which provides clients with their choice of brand new vehicles from the company upon request, which the customer can use at their discretion for an hourly fee.

According to Business Insider, this spin-off firm from the greater GM organization has already exceeded several milestones in the first seven months of operation. Now servicing five US cities and with over 5,000 registered user, Maven’s shared automobiles now have a combined mileage of 4.2 million miles driven. Not bad for an outfit that started out with only 40 people.

The secret to success for Maven has been its keen eye for talent. It has aggressively acquired additional employees from computer and tech firms as well as other ride-hailing companies like Sidecar, which was actually bought up by GM shortly before the Maven launch, with a former Sidecar higher-up now set up as their own executive. Its head of operations is Dan Grossman, formerly of another competitor Zipcar. Under Grossman’s lead, Maven is gearing to take its first step abroad within the coming months.

It’s plain to see now that car-sharing companies are going to dominate conventional taxis in the coming years, with the eventual next step being driverless or self-driving service. BMW has been overhauling its own car-sharing platform since May. Elon Musk of Tesla is pushing forward with his company’s plans to open its own car-sharing service with driverless vehicles. GM, through a partnership between its Maven subsidiary and Lyft is doing the same. An estimate by Business Insider’s research arm BI Intelligence sees the full advent of self-driving car services by the year 2020.

It’s going to be a hard and pitched competition getting there however. Existing car-sharing and ride-hailing services are constantly one-upping each other to make enough money to spend in developing an actual working driverless car operation. Service pioneer Uber has already announced its intention to start using self-driving taxi service – though with a human still in the driver’s seat ready to take over in case of an emergency – in Pittsburgh before the month is out.

Back to Maven, for the moment its primary focus is expanding the reach of its service. Dan Grossman states that parent company GM already considers Maven to be a true “global brand”, and is sure that overseas expansion will certainly gain a new market of customers eager to take GM cars for a spin, if only for a while.

Photo Credit to techcrunch.com

UBER Losing Over a Bilion Dollars for Q2 2016


It seems the honeymoon is over for Uber Technologies, makers of the popular app that availed users of their wide pool of Uber drivers to hail rides from on the dot. In the first six months of year 2016, the ride-hiring giant lost a staggering $1.27 billion. And that’s not including taxes, interest, currency depreciation and amortization.

Uber finance head Gautam Gupta tells investors in a quarterly conference call, the topics of which were disclosed by sources to Bloomberg, that the primary reason for their company’s great reversal is the subsidies Uber pays out to its numerous drivers around the world. This perk that has enabled the ride-hailing service to inflict a massive change upon the transportation industry is now starting to bleed them.

The company lost $520 million during the first quarter and an additional $750 million for the second, according to TIME. In 2015 the total loss had been about $2 billion.

This current financial bind that Uber finds itself in has proven symptomatic for similar companies in its vein that start off servicing a locality – Uber is based in San Francisco – and then deciding to expand internationally, as reported by The New York Times. With Uber operations starting to open in one major city after another throughout the world, the service needed to get local drivers into its pool and fast. Thus they began providing subsidies to provide incentives for both Uber service driver and Uber app customer. In addition, more money went into service marketing and processing for national government regulators and run-of- the-mill taxi companies, which were not so pleased with Uber’s heavy-handed interloping.

To get this money the company has been fundraising like crazy from potential investors, who value Uber in their eyes as worth over $62 billion. Every few months, new investments from Goldman Sachs Group, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund has garnered a steady stream of billions of dollars a month.

Driver subsidies then are what’re starting to drag Uber down. Over in China, the company went head to head against homegrown ride-hailing juggernaut Didi Chuxing, wherein both parties ran fast and loose with driver subsidies to increase their footprint in the market. It ended when Uber, realizing that they were giving more than receiving, foisted their Uber China subsidiary to Didi Chuxing. But it still threw money elsewhere like the $1 billion investment in Uber Global.

Not all is doom and gloom for Uber however. The second quarter of 2016 saw a growth in revenue, owing to more than $5 million worth in bookings for that quarter – a 31% jump and a $1.1 billion revenue increase.

Photo Credit to www.streetinsider.com

Sad Pic of OLD COUPLE in Separate NURSING HOMES Tugs Heartstrings



Some marriages have the good fortune of lasting so long, even as the couple moves on towards old age. But that strength of union can also become a potential source of hurt as husband and wife begin to lean more on each other, especially in the twilight years. When circumstances force them to be away from one another for the rest of their lives, the emotional turmoil can be unbearable for them, and heartbreaking to outside observers.


This is the unenviable position of long-time couple Wolf Gottschalk, 83 years old, and his wife Anita, who is 81. Residents of Surrey in British Columbia and married for 62 years, their lengthy time together was come to an abrupt and unfair end when they, at their advanced ages, have been admitted to separate nursing homes. Eight months have passed since that awful news, and the two of them have been living separately, and miserably for the most part.




Their plight has been brought to the public attention by their granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik, who posted a picture of her aggrieved grandparents on Facebook. It depicts Wolf and Anita, on a wheelchair and using a walker respectively, and sobbing quietly near each other. The occasion was one of several arranged visits by Ashley and other members of the Gottschalk family, who would take turns visiting one of the couple at their assigned home, then driving them through the 40-minute distance to the other location to visit the mate, that they might have some time together. But no day visit lasts forever, and when it’s time to say goodbye, the tears start flowing as in the photo.


Bartyik tells CNN that the emotional partings have been emotional for her Omi and Opi. She made her Facebook post this Tuesday August 23, hoping to somehow bring her grandparents’ plight to the attention of her local community, especially after receiving the news that Wolf has been diagnosed with lymphoma that very day. Coupled with his advancing case of dementia, Ashley fears that he would not be long for the world and Anita would not be able to be there for him.

What their devoted granddaughter didn’t know was that her poignant plea to healthcare outfit Fraser Health to arrange for the elder Gottschalks to be in the same nursing home would become viral internationally.

The 29-year old Ashley, who looks after her grandparents at their separate homes full-time, ended her Facebook post with a heartfelt request. "We want justice for my grandparents who after 62 years together deserve to spend their last moments in the same building."

Apparently her efforts have borne fruit, for a Fraser Health responded that they have undertaken steps to reunite the couple within the next few weeks. We could only hope that they’d hurry; Ashley notes that grandpa Wolf still remembers his wife in spite of his dementia, but who knows for how long.

Photo Credit to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

GRABR Shopping Delivery Web Service Gains $3.5 MILLION in Funding


Online marketplace sites are sure to gain leaps and bounds of advantages over the rest of the pack if they can somehow offer a unique and special feature that everyone else doesn’t. That has been the main drawing point of Grabr, the up-and- coming peer-to- peer market website that revolutionizes international shopping for everyone. And investors were quick to notice this.

Tech Crunch reports that the European-based website has just completed a funding round, garnering $3.5 million in seed by Aleksey Repik of RBV Capital. Another name present was N-Trans Group’s Konstantin Nikolaev, and a powerhouse gathering of investment people ready to help get the service off the ground.

Grabr’s market system at a glance sounds like a godsend for shoppers looking for international items or simply things that couldn’t be found or bought where they live; it also comes across as a fun way for regular worldwide travelers to make some extra cash as they get around.

The way it works is that a shopper on the lookout for an overseas product or thing will post a request on the Grabr website. Any international travelers who are interested may then search through the list of request until he finds one for something to be found in the very country or location he will be travelling to at the time. If he thinks he can purchase or acquire the item, he can reply to the request with a bid on the order, comprising the item price (if it’s to be bought) and expenses in traveling. If the shopper is okay with the bid, he accepts it and forwards a payment with the item price and an additional monetary reward for whoever might answer their order (custom fees included) through Grabr’s partner payment processor Stripe, which keeps the payment on hold and deducts a 7% service fee.

With a bid accepted, the traveler goes to the destination and uses his own funds to buy the product asked for like a fancy Parisian handbag not available in the US, or maybe acquire the product requested like beach sand from Copacabana put in a bottle. With the items at hand, the traveler can contact the shopper and communicate through Grabr’s built-in messenger service where they can arrange a place to meet one another.

That done, the traveler and shopper go to the agreed upon meeting place, the traveler delivers the item personally, the shopper confirms delivery on Grabr, and Stripe releases the held compensation for the traveler: reimbursed item price (if there is) and added reward money.

The Grabr management team states that their service already has about 50,000 shoppers and travelers conducting business in it, though they have yet to disclose how many transactions have been successfully completed in the site. They intend to use their newly acquired funding for purposes of expansion. 

Visit Grabr at https://grabr.io/, or download their mobile app from the App Store.

Photo Credit to www.adweek.com

APPLE Releases Vital iOS UPDATE for SPYWARE


In this day and age anywhere can become a battlefield, whether it is on the real world or the online world of the internet. And an electronic attack can be just as devastating as a physical one, especially when the possibility of having sensitive, personal and classified information is high.

Which is why Apple has taken a lightning-fast step in order to address a weakness of the iOS mobile operating system for iPhones and iPads against a very particular sort of spyware, one used to hack into a prominent Middle Eastern malcontent. To that end they have released an update patch for the latest iOS version, 9.3.5, as reported first by the Associated Press, and enjoined their product users to download it for their devices as soon as possible.

Ahmed Mansoor, an activist and part of the so-called UAE Five, drew attention to this iOS hacking spyware when he received a message on his iPhone 6, containing a web link he was invited to click. Instead, Mansoor forwarded the suspect message to the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab for investigation, done in conjunction with the Lookout mobile security firm from San Francisco.

What they discovered was a persistent mobile attack spyware on the message that could exploit a flaw of regular 3-day periods in iOS that would leave it vulnerable to illegal access. Once inside according to Lookout’s Thursday blog post on the matter, hackers who have sent the spyware will have constant monitoring of information on the device’s various apps, reading the victim’s email, Facebook posts, WhatsApp conversations and calendar event listings. Lookout researcher Andrew Blaich noted how quickly Apple moved to address the discovered flaw with the iOS patch, proving that the spyware involved was a serious security threat.

Meanwhile, Citizen Lab managed to trace back the bugged message to a “cyber war” firm in Israel that is also owned by an American venture capital company. In a report by Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton, the company called NSO Group has created Pegasus, a powerful spyware product.

NSO spokesman Zamir Dahbash was interviewed by USA Today on the suspected use of their spyware against Mansoor. While he would not disclose the identity of those the firm had sold copies of Pegasus to, he insisted that their product has only ever been available to authorized and verified agencies of world governments, expressly to be used only for “investigating and preventing crimes”.

The flaw 3-day interval vulnerability period exploited by Pegasus was discovered to have been in iOS versions for the past three years, according to Joseph Lorenzo Hall of Washington DC’s Center for

Democracy and Technology. He points out that any iOS using device from that time would be extremely vulnerable to that specific spyware.

The UAE would have had cause to try hacking Mansoor, a known critic of their government; but their embassy in DC has decline to comment.

Photo Credit to awdnews.com