ESPN fires Schilling over transgender comments

ESPN fired Curt Schilling, a major league baseball analyst, over expressing offensive comments regarding transgender people.

“ESPN is an inclusive company,” the network said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

Schilling’s conduct has been called into question before by ESPN for offensive or political statements that the analyst has made. But, it was his social media post on Tuesday that was the last straw for the network. Schilling posted a meme that depicted a man wearing a wig and ripped clothing. His comments accompanying the post read, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves,” referring to the recent bathroom laws that have been passed in several states. “I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”

After receiving backlash from readers, Schilling went on to say, “You frauds out there ranting and screaming about my ‘opinions’ (even if it isn’t) and comments are screaming for ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ while you refuse to do and be either.”

Schilling is known for his outspoken comments, so this isn’t the first time that he has garnered controversy over social media. Just last month Schilling was in hot water after telling a radio station that Hillary Clinton“should be buried under a jail somewhere,” violating ESPN policy about sharing political opinions on the election.  He was suspended by ESPN in August, for making comments that compared Muslims to Nazis. This suspension was eventually extended for the rest of the baseball season.

It appears that Schilling expected that his days were numbered with ESPN. Shortly after his suspension during the baseball season, a filing with the Federal Election Commission showed that Schilling, while donating $250 to Ben Carson’s presidential campaign, had listed his employer as “ESPN (Not Sure How Much Longer)” and, under “Occupation,” he wrote, “Analyst (For Now Anyway).”

Article via The Washington Post, 20 April 2016

Photo 150730-D-FW736-016 by DoD News Features [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Tech boom coming to an end?

For the last few years Silicon Valley has been the darling of venture capitalists looking for the next big thing. The result has been huge investments and valuations for companies that often come with whimsical names (Think Twilio and Sprinklr). The rise of mobile has contributed to the belief that there should be and “app for that”, and paved the way for companies less than 10 years old to become part of the billion dollar startup club. But that seems to be coming to an end.

At least, that is what the data shows anyway. Since the end of 2015, venture capital has been pulling back on investing in Silicon Valley unicorns. Unicorns are Silicon Valley companies with valuations of a billion dollars or more. Funding fell 8 percent to $25.5 billion, extending a steep decline that began the quarter before, according to a report released Wednesday by KPMG, an accountancy, and CB Insights, a venture researcher.

“There’s a lot of cautiousness out there,” says Kerry Wu, an analyst at CB Insights. “It’s reflected in the data.”

What that data shows is the rate of new unicorn companies is slowing. In Q3 of 2015 there was a new unicorn showing up in the valley every four days. But by the end of 2015 that had tricked down to just 1 new unicorn that quarter. The report by KPMG points to a few key reasons for the slow down in venture capital funding.

  • Too many unicorns A unicorn is a unicorn because its rare, but there have been so many lately that it may have driven the value down. When the value goes down, the money starts to slow because investors don’t see the next app as the best way to make money fast.
  • Startups are still growing The unicorns that have received funding are continuing to get more, such as Uber. This is helping them to grow larger quickly. And spreading the money thinner for the new comers on the block.
  • American funding is cooling off  The total number of venture deals flatlined in the first quarter after plunging 15 percent a quarter earlier. The stagnation suggest that venture capitalist aren’t the excited to invest in this market.
  • California startups aren’t as exciting Funding has fallen by 1.5 percent. It’s down almost half from the $12.2 billion raised in the September quarter. Although these numbers don’t indicate trouble, it does confirm the latest data that suggest that the tech economy is slowing down.

Article via CNET, 13 April 2016

Photo Startup by Dennis Skley [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


The bar exam results for Florida are in and they are not good

The February bar exam scores usually possess the lowest scores. Most February test takers are usually second-timers and probably failed for a reason the first time around. However, the results from these Florida law schools were from first-time test takers meaning it does not factor in people who have failed before.

The results are as follows:

Florida Coastal School of Law (Jacksonville, FL): 32.7% pass

Barry University School of Law (Orlando, FL): 35.9% pass

St. Thomas University (Miami Gardens, FL): 42.3% pass

Stetson University School of Law (Gulfport, FL): 53.3% pass

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL): 56.3% pass

University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL): 53.1% pass

Ave Maria School of Law (Naples, FL): 52.9% pass

Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL): 75% pass

Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL): 71.4% pass

Florida International University (Miami, FL): 84.6% pass

Both Florida Coastal and Barry University boasted in the fact that they had the most students sitting for the bar exam, which usually is not a good sign. Florida Coastal is notorious for its unreasonable investment and low employment score (29%).

Even though the University of Florida and the University of Miami had the least number of test-takers, the results are still very surprising. Only about half managed to pass. UF has an employment score of 68% and a US News Rank of 47. UM has an employment score of 67% with a US News Rank of 63.

Nova Southeastern and Florida State University continue to well with about 3/4 of their test takers have passing marks. FSU has an employment score of about 68% and has a US News Rank of 45. Florida International University did the best, with a 84.6% pass rate.

Article via Above the Law, April 11, 2016

Photo: Last Undergraduate Class via Stephen Grebinski [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


EquiPay splits bills equitably, not equally

EquiPay is a soon-to-launch app that takes income inequalities into account when splitting bills among large parties.

“For centuries, women and people of color have worked day in and day out only to be burdened by unequal pay for equal work,” Malbroux said.

The idea behind EquiPay is to split the check equitably, not equally. EquiPay “developed a complex algorithm that takes into account history,” Malbroux said. It takes income data from the U.S. Department of Labor and splits the bill based on racial and gender income differences.

For instance, if a black woman were out for dinner with a white man and a white woman, the white man would pay the most, and the black woman would pay the least.

To give it a twist, the app allows individuals to protest against the split with a series of excuses like, “I’m unconventionally unattractive,” “I’ve spent $400 on improv classes,” and “I’m aware of my privilege.” When selecting “this isn’t an issue anymore,” the app will proceed to display stats on the wage gap.

This seems to be a great idea for the underprivileged, but creators of EquiPay have found a way to attract the attention of privileged white collars as well.

“We at EquiPay know people love social recognition for being socially conscious, so we’ve created a share feature,” Malbroux said.

Malbroux’s goal is not to make money— she is more excited to see what will come from this socially conscious creation.

Article via TechCrunch, 20 February 2016
Photo: Eat Money by Lynne Hand [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Bitcoins could buy energy for less

Researchers discovered the technology behind Bitcoin that could help cut energy bills.

Technologists of Accenture have created a blockchain-based smart plug that can track power consumption and search for cheaper energy sources minute-by-minute. The current blockchain serves as the automated ledger that oversees Bitcoin and keeps tracks of where coins are spent.

The plug modifies the basic Bitcoin blockchain technology to make it actively look for cheaper power suppliers, which could help people living on low earnings who use prepayment meters that operate on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. Accenture has also adapted the blockchain to allow customers to actively negotiate deals, rather than simply signing contracts and confirming transaction records.

“It’s about how we put more business behaviour or logic into the blockchain,” said Emmanual Viale, head of the Accenture team at the firm’s French research lab.

The prototype works with other appliances in the house so when demand for energy is high, it searches for different suppliers and uses the modified blockchain to switch to the cheaper source. According to Accenture research, the modified blockchain would be able to save individuals using prepayment meters in the UK up to £660 million annually.

Although the Accenture system is still just a concept, it has huge potential to make energy use more affordable.

Article via BBC, 19 February 2016
Photo: Bitcoin by Chris Pirillo


Facebook hires blind engineer to improve tech

Matt King joined Facebook in June as the company’s first blind engineer. His mission is to improve Facebook for the visually impaired. With Billions of daily users, Facebook is one of the most visited sites on the web. Yet, much of it’s content is driven by visuals and images that software isn’t designed to translate.

King’s first big project at Facebook is to improve this experience for the visually impaired. His software gives broad descriptions of what may be in the photos shared on a users feed. It is the first step in looping a user in on what is on their timeline beyond the artificial intelligence that dictates the words on the screen. This software was officially released by Facebook on Tuesday. At a demo for the new software, the artificial intelligence describes a friend’s photo in the timeline as, “may contain sky, tree and outdoor.” A second photo from another Facebook contact is said to include “pizza.” The references fill a void that was not being addressed. Before this software, a visually impaired user would not have any information about the photo.

Matt King didn’t come into the world completely blind. He was born with  a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which destroys the retina. This made him legally blind at birth, but still able to see well enough to do schoolwork and ride his bike. But by the time he graduated Notre Dame with and electrical engineering degree, he was totally blind. He joined IBM in 1998, met the accessibility team which worked on making computing more accessible to this with disabilities, and ended up working with them for nearly two decades.

IBM’s accessibility department was created in 1985, well before most of Silicon Valley was thinking about the issue, partly in response to an IBM researcher who had gone blind.“The sense that was happening was that every person who was blind on the planet was losing access to the computer. There was no solution. You couldn’t write an email. You couldn’t go to work. You couldn’t go to school,” says Schwerdtfeger, an early member of the accessibility team who later worked closely with King.

“There were other blind people and several of them provided good input from the standpoint of a user, but what Matt brought to the table was an understanding of the technology underneath,” says one current IBM staffer. Looking for a chance to make more of an impact, Matt King left IBM and joined Facebook. The decision was somewhat personal for him, as King remembers the disappointment in creating his own Facebook page, and not know what was in the pictures. “Here’s one more thing, just like driving a car. Here’s another barrier for people who are blind,” said King. Now he is in a position to change that, and improve the platform for all its users. Kings technology will help the visually impaired, as well as those in situations where they cannot easily see their screens, such as when driving.

“The fact that you have somebody who has worked on accessibility who actually has the disability, is in a leadership position at probably the most pervasive application on the planet and is willing to put themselves out there like that,” Schwerdtfeger says, “that’s a big deal.”

Article via Mashable, 5 April 2016

Photo: First Ever Braille Library in Paradise, Mauritius by Exchanges Photos