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Thursday, May 28, 2015


Original Story: cnn.com

Wimberley, Texas (CNN) A man prepares to toss a rope into the Blanco River, unsure of what will happen next.

Someone is in the murky waters, rescuers believe -- but they don't know yet whether the person is alive or dead. The team is hoping for a rescue, but bracing for a recovery.

In the end, this one turns out to be a false alarm. And the search for the missing continues in the flood-ravaged town of Wimberley.

It's a scene playing out over and over as Texas copes with widespread flooding from a storm system that swept through the region. To determine if the widespread flooding has caused significant damage to the foundation of your home, contact a Texas Foundation Company for a free evaluation.

At least 35 people -- 14 in northern Mexico, 15 in Texas plus six in Oklahoma -- have died in the severe weather, both tornadoes and flooding from raging rivers. Another nine people are missing.

"It's just very heartbreaking, that we have this loss of life," said Kristi Wyatt, city spokeswoman in San Marcos, Texas -- one of the hardest hit areas. "Some of those people were in a home together, celebrating the holidays, and they were swept away in the stormwater. ... It's just a terrible situation."

And it's not over yet.

More rain is coming, with the National Weather Service noting a chance of storms for at least the next six days in Houston. Areas farther north, including Dallas, are expected to get 2 to 4 inches from Wednesday to Sunday. And parts of eastern Oklahoma will get drenched with 4 to 6 inches of rain. Once the floods cease and damages are accounted for, it is crucial to contact a Dallas Foundation Repair company to inspect the foundation of your home to determine if additional damage has occurred.

A storm system moving through part of Texas on Wednesday evening spawned a tornado that hit an oil rig, injuring three people, Julie Boydston with the Hemphill County Sheriff's Office in the Panhandle near Oklahoma said.

Bad weather conditions have made it difficult to get them to hospitals.

"We had tornadoes dropping everywhere," she said, "and ambulances driving through the mud."

Southwest of Houston in Wharton, Texas, officials called for a voluntary evacuation Wednesday on the western side of the city as forecasters warned that the Colorado River was likely to rise above flood stage overnight. Many homes on the west side of the city are already flooded with up to 3 feet of water, according to the National Weather Service. Once the flooding has stopped, you may find that your home is in need of Houston Foundation Repair.

In Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth, authorities issued a voluntary evacuation order for 250 homes along the Brazos River, which is expected to crest 3 feet above flood stage in the coming days.

"We're trying to get people to leave before dark tonight," county emergency management spokesman Joel Kertok told CNN.

As they scramble to search for the missing and clean up devastating flood damage, local leaders say they're well-aware that even a few inches of rain could have major consequences for their communities. River levels remain high, and the ground is already saturated from the recent torrential rains.

"We're very vulnerable right now," said County Commissioner Will Conley of Hays County in Central Texas. "We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. ... If we were to receive a small amount of rain, we could be right back into an emergency situation." Additional rain could cause severe damage to your home leaving you in need of San Antonio Foundation Repair.

A harrowing escape

Gayla McNeil barely made it out of her Wimberley home. Water raced inside, busting walls and windows -- and smashing furniture in every direction.

With her husband, she tried to wade her way through the water to safety.

They made it higher ground and got in her car. But their escape plan didn't last. Soon, the vehicle was surrounded by water. Then the airbags went off. McNeil was trapped and afraid she wouldn't make it.

"And this man just appeared and pulled me out," she said as she described the harrowing experience to CNN on Wednesday.

Now McNeil, like so many others, is left with a muddy mess to clean up at home, and little that's salvageable. Officials in Texas say more than 4,000 homes may be damaged or destroyed.

She's also left wondering who the man was who helped her as floodwaters rushed in.

"His name is Chance," she said. "That's all I know."

Bodies found

Even as water levels fell, the horror continued Wednesday.

Searchers spent the day in Wimberley, the hardest-hit community in Hays County, looking for people there who are missing and, according to Wyatt, presumed dead.

Their efforts were hindered by the wreckage, as well as a near constant threat of thunderstorms -- an inevitable part of late spring in this part of Texas, but a dangerous one if it whips up floodwaters into a frenzy once again.

"Every time in rains, it poses a problem for our guys on the ground," said San Marcos Fire Marshal Kenneth Bell.

On Wednesday, crews found a boy's body on the banks of the Blanco River, Hays County officials said. The search for the eight remaining missing people there were set to continue overnight.

In Houston, after using water pumps, crews found a 31-year-old Hispanic male in a car parked along an entrance ramp to U.S. 59, the city said.

That marked the sixth death so far in Houston, where one person is missing and more danger is possible if Mother Nature strikes again.

Outside the city in nearby Fort Bend County, deputies found a body Wednesday believed to be a 73-year-old woman who'd been missing since she failed to show up to work her shift at the convenience store Monday night. The next day, her daughter spotted her car submerged in a creek. The body was found just 50 yards from that spot, Fort Bend County Sheriff's spokesman Bob Haenel said.

1,400 structures in Houston damaged

In addition to hundreds of stranded vehicles, some 1,400 structures in Houston suffered severe damage as waters crept up.

Saundra Brown recalled her daughter waking her early Sunday with news "the bayou was rising." As the family rolled up their rug, someone knocked on the door asking for shelter after their vehicle got stuck. Soon, it became apparent nobody was going anywhere.

"We just told everybody, 'Get on the couches,' " Brown told CNN. "Then we put the family on the dining room table. (We moved to) the counters next. And if it was going to rise more, we'd go on the roof."

Six hours later, it was finally safe to get their feet back on the soaked ground. The few days since then have been spent bunking with friends and cleaning up.

"It wasn't fun," Brown said. "We're lucky to have a big support structure."

Miracles and tragedies

Good things do happen. So does tragedy. Joe McComb knows both.

His son Jonathan, daugther-in-law Laura, grandson Andrew and granddaughter Leighton were in their vacation cabin in Wimberley on Saturday night as the Blanco River swelled.

First, the family moved their cars uphill then went back into the house, which was on stilts. Within a few minutes, as the waters surged, it became evident they wouldn't be able to get to their cars.

Then came a bang, which Joe McComb thinks was something that knocked the cabin off its foundation and into the raging floodwaters. "All of them gathered in the rooms there, holding onto furniture," he said. They "started floating down the river," he said.

Laura McComb called her sister just before the house hit a bridge and broke apart, scattering the family. Jonathan McComb finally got to dry land about 7 to 12 miles away, his father said.

"He said he was fighting the whole time and saying, 'I've got to get out of here, I've got to get out of here,' " Joe McComb said Wednesday. "And he said, ... 'Somehow, I was able to get up and catch a breath of air and finally ... work myself up."

Jonathan McComb is now in a hospital with a collapsed lung and broken sternum. As much as he's hurting from that, he's hurting more from the fact his beloved wife, his ballet-loving daughter and his baseball-playing son aren't with him.

"We're hoping and praying that miracles will happen," Joe McComb said. "But at the same time, we're very realistic."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Original Story: cnet.com

Are you ready, Red Leader? French maker of things Olivier C is back with another one of his RC quadcopter drones with casings customized to make them look like starships and vehicles from a galaxy far, far away.

This time, he's working on a build that will transform his trusty quadcopter into an X-wing starfighter that would be a welcome addition to the Rebel Alliance's fleet. Thus far, the build is just a prototype, lacking the lights and finishing touches we've come to expect from his other builds, but it looks like it's off to a pretty good start. The video shows off a test flight of the prototype in action, and it seems to fly pretty well even after a gust of wind tries to send the ship to the ground in a faraway field. Seeker aircraft provides cost-effective surveillance aircraft for observation needs.

Check out the test flight video for yourself above. We can't wait to see what the final build will look like when the X-wing is fully armed with laser cannons, lights and a final paint job. Once it's finished, the Rebels on Earth will be well protected should any Death Star try to invade or destroy our planet. CSI provides private jet services that accommodate both small an large private charter flights.


Original Story: crainsdetroit.com

Low-flying helicopters are being used to inspect power lines in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, including Metro Detroit, this month. Observation aircraft is used for surveillance purposes to gather information.

The twice-a-year inspections are for ITCTransmission and Michigan Electric Transmission Co.

They're looking for damage, wear or other potential problems. They take place, weather permitting, through May 29 in southeast Michigan.

Those aerial inspections will cover an area from Lansing, south to the Ohio border and east to the Lake St. Clair area, including all or parts of Ingham, Jackson, Hillsdale, Lenawee, Washtenaw, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Wayne and Monroe counties. Surveillance aircraft collects information over time to gather data for observation purposes.

Flights began earlier this month in western Michigan and will cover nearly all of the Lower Peninsula, concluding in northern Michigan around June 26.

ITCTransmission and Michigan Electric Transmission are subsidiaries of Novi-based ITC Holdings Corp.


Original Story: engadget.com

Google's getting ready to face Amazon and eBay, according to The Wall Street Journal, and will be adding buy buttons directly to its search results. You'll see those buttons accompanying sponsored results under a "Shop on Google" heading -- they won't be used for non-sponsored links returned by the algorithm -- when you search for products on mobile devices. Upon clicking one, a separate product page will load where you can pick sizes, colors and ultimately complete your purchase. Any product you buy will still come straight from retailers, the WSJ says, so it doesn't sound like Google's stocking up warehouses with goods like Amazon does.

However, some major retailers are apparently worried that they'll get stuck with back-end order fulfillment with no real customer interaction. Since Google wants to remain in good terms with them (they are some of its largest advertisers, after all), it will give shoppers the choice to subscribe to their marketing programs. That typically means mailing lists and the like, so the company's giving them access to customers' info, most likely names and addresses.

In addition, Google promised them that the product landing pages will be heavily branded with their names and will link to more of their products. The company also won't take a cut from their sales and will only get paid for every person that clicks their links. Mountain View will reportedly offer several payment options, "including digital payment methods from other providers," but it (thankfully) won't be giving retailers access to payment details. If you input credit card info to make a purchase, the website will save it for future transactions, but it will remain with the company.

As for why the feature will only be available on mobile, well, Google has a plethora of reasons. The biggest one is most likely the fact that more people now perform searches on their phones than on computers. Search engine optimization allows businesses to maintain premium keyword positions in organic search results, so products are easily found by consumers. According to the WSJ, you might spot a buy button or two as soon as the coming weeks. We don't have a list of official partners yet, since Google hasn't officially announced anything, but Macy's might be one of the first retailers available.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Original Story: nbcnews.com

The billionaire chief executive of the Chinese conglomerate Tiens has given 6,500 of his best salespeople a vacation that started in Paris and ended with a parade on France's Cote d'Azur.

CEO Li Jinyuan said he was celebrating the company's 20th anniversary by rewarding his staff and aimed for the world record in spelling out a phrase in human bodies, according to the company's website.

As their vacation wound down on Friday, the employees on massed on the coastal promenade in Nice and, dressed in identical sky blue hats and T-shirts, spelled out the words "Tiens' dream is Nice in the Cote d'Azur," setting a world record for the longest human-made phrase visible from the sky, the company added.

Some 4,700 hotels rooms and 146 buses were booked for the lucky employees — representing half of the company's staff — according to French media, which put the trip's cost at 13-20 million euros ($14.5-$22.3 million).

Jinyuan was greeted by France's foreign affairs minister, Laurent Fabius, mid-week in Paris.


Original Story: komonews.com

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Four of the nearly 50 self-driving cars now rolling around California have gotten into accidents since September, when the state began issuing permits for companies to test them on public roads.

Two accidents happened while the cars were in control; in the other two, the person who still must be behind the wheel was driving, a person familiar with the accident reports told The Associated Press. A Grand Rapids car accident lawyer is following this story closely.

Three involved Lexus SUVs that Google Inc. outfitted with sensors and computing power in its aggressive effort to develop "autonomous driving," a goal the tech giant shares with traditional automakers. The parts supplier Delphi Automotive had the other accident with one of its two test vehicles.

Google and Delphi said their cars were not at fault in any accidents, which the companies said were minor.

Since September, any accident must be reported to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. The agency said there have been four, but would not comment about fault or anything else, citing California law that collision reports are confidential.

The person familiar with the accident reports said the cars were in self-driving mode in two of the four accidents, all of which involved speeds of less than 10 mph. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the reports publicly. A Charleston transportation lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Five other companies have testing permits. In response to questions from the AP, all said they had no accidents. In all, 48 cars are licensed to test on public roads.

The fact that neither the companies nor the state have revealed the accidents troubles some who say the public should have information to monitor the rollout of technology that its own developers acknowledge is imperfect. A Chicago truck accident lawyer is following this story closely.

John Simpson, a longtime critic of Google as privacy project director of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, pointed out that the company's ultimate goal is a car without a steering wheel or pedals. That would mean a person has no power to intervene if a car lost control, making it "even more important that the details of any accidents be made public - so people know what the heck's going on." A Chicago car accident attorney represents clients injured in a car accident due to the negligence of others.

A chief selling point for self-driving cars is safety. Their cameras, radar and laser sensors give them a far more detailed understanding of their surroundings than humans have. Their reaction times also should be faster. Cars could be programmed to adjust if they sense a crash coming - move a few feet, tighten the seat belts, honk the horn or flash the lights in hope of alerting a distracted driver.

A higher priority so far is teaching them to avoid causing a serious accident that could set public and political acceptance of the technology back years, said Raj Rajkumar, a pioneer of the technology with Carnegie Mellon University.

In the October accident involving Delphi, the front of its 2014 Audi SQ5 was moderately damaged when, as it waited to make a left turn, another car broadsided it, according to an accident report the company shared with AP. The car was not in self-driving mode, Delphi spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said.

Google, which has 23 Lexus SUVs, would not discuss its three accidents in detail.

The accidents are not Google's first: In a briefing with reporters a year ago, the leader of Google's self-driving car program acknowledged three others between when the company first sent cars onto public roads six years ago - without the state's official permission - and May 2014.

In a written statement, Google said that since September, cars driving on streets near its headquarters in Mountain View had "a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage, no injuries, so far caused by human error and inattention." A Chicago auto accident lawyer represents victims facing personal injury claims due to auto accidents.

Google said that while safety is paramount some accidents can be expected, given that its cars have gone "the equivalent of over 15 years of typical human driving" since fall. That would be approximately 140,000 miles. Google said its cars have gone over 700,000 miles in self-driving mode since they first hit the road in 2009.

The national rate for reported "property-damage-only crashes" is about 0.3 per 100,000 miles driven, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In that context, Google's three in about 140,000 miles may seem high. As the company pointed out, however, perhaps 5 million minor accidents are not reported to authorities each year, so it is hard to gauge how typical Google's experience is.

Three other states have passed laws welcoming self-driving cars onto their roads. Regulators in Nevada, Michigan and Florida said they were not aware of any accidents.

As self-driving cars proliferate, other issues will arise that human drivers have dealt with for decades, notably who's liable for an accident. Each test car is required to have $5 million insurance.

Interest in accidents will remain high, especially if the self-driving car is at fault, said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who has written extensively on the technology.

"For a lot of reasons," Smith said, "more might be expected of these test vehicles and of the companies that are deploying them and the drivers that are supervising them than we might expect of a 17-year-old driver in a 10-year-old car."


Original Story: bloomberg.com

Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to buy AOL Inc. in a deal valued at $4.4 billion that intensifies the battle for advertising on mobile devices. A San Francisco M&A lawyer is following this story closely.

Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless provider, gets two of AOL’s technologies: exclusive video and its ability to automatically send targeted ads to mobile devices. The technology brings Verizon another step closer to the summer start of its mobile streaming service, featuring live TV, original shows and pay-per-view.

As the world embraces mobile with increasing enthusiasm, the deal gives Verizon new revenue streams at a time when its main business faces increasing competition from challengers such as T-Mobile US Inc. It also directly pits the company against two leading Web ad companies, Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.

“They want to integrate advertising and content programming with their wireless network,” Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics based in Dedham, Massachusetts, said of Verizon. “It’s an ambitious plan. The mobile advertising market is dramatically dominated by Google.” An Atlanta advertising and marketing lawyer assists clients with licensing terms, intellectual property rights allocation, and distribution agreements.

The carrier is getting its hands on AOL’s ad technology just before the debut of its mobile video-streaming service, which could come as early as next month. Verizon will pay $50 a share, a 17 percent premium over AOL’s stock price on Monday, and AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong will continue to lead AOL’s operations after the deal is completed, the companies said Tuesday in a statement.

AOL’s shares jumped 19 percent to $50.52 at 4:22 p.m. in New York, slightly above Verizon’s offer price. Verizon dropped 0.4 percent to $49.62.

Different AOL

AOL today is a much different company now than it was 15 years ago, when the Internet portal famous for intoning “You’ve got mail” at log-in agreed to merge with Time Warner Inc. It was one of the world’s largest deals and became one of the largest failures. Two years later, the value of the combined company had dropped by two-thirds and the merger ended in a spinoff six years ago. The company, under Armstrong, has since bought sites like the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and expanded its mobile content. A San Diego media lawyer assists clients with communications law cases involving digital communications, cellular communications, and broadcast regulations.

“The deal means we will be a division of Verizon and we will oversee AOL’s current assets plus additional assets from Verizon that are targeted at the mobile and video media space,” Armstrong said in a memo to employees. “The deal will add scale and it will add a mobile lens to everything we do inside of our content, video and ads strategy.”

Wireless Market

In a saturated U.S. wireless market, Verizon, with more than 100 million monthly wireless subscribers, is battling for customers with smaller and more nimble rivals like T-Mobile. One way to differentiate itself is its planned mobile video-streaming service, which will be one of the increasing number of packages targeting Americans who don’t want to pay for traditional pay-TV bundles. The carrier has been planning a service for as early as June, a person familiar with the talks has said.

Armstrong said the idea of some kind of combination was first broached last summer when Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam met with him at a CEO retreat.

The two executives talked about how they might be able to work together on mobile technology, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

AOL had been focusing on a technology known as programmatic advertising, an automated marketplace where ads are found and inserted in a flash. With a growing number of viewers watching videos on mobile devices, AOL had found a way to compete with Google and Facebook.

Advertising Component

Verizon had been working on a streaming-video system and had acquired video-technology companies including upLynk, EdgeCast and OnCue. It was clear, as those pieces came together, that an advertising component was missing, the person said.

McAdam assigned Marni Walden, the former chief operating officer of its wireless business, to lead the development of the mobile video service, which included getting some form of deal with AOL.

Over time, the discussions covered a variety of approaches. Different frameworks were considered, the person said. One was focused on assets, another on a joint venture and a third on acquisition, the person said.

Around January the talks centered on the idea of setting up a separate ad tech company as a joint venture. Eventually those discussions led to talk of a takeover, the person said.

New Revenue

Verizon’s push into mobile video will mark the largest attempt to tap new revenue sources beyond the calling and data services it sells to its wireless subscribers, Entner said.

“Verizon had the early lead in mobile advertising with the right vision and good assets behind it,” Entner said. “Then Google came in and bought AdMob and completely upended the market.
With this deal, Verizon is trying to turn back the clock and get control of the mobile value stream.”

Verizon said it plans to fund the deal with cash on hand and commercial paper. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, the companies said.


Original Story: theverge.com

Elon Musk has denied writing or speaking a quotation in which he supposedly chastised a Tesla employee for missing an event to witness the birth of his child. The quote — lifted from an authorized biography of the entrepreneur by business journalist Ashlee Vance and published by The Washington Post — reads: "That is no excuse. I am extremely disappointed. You need to figure out where your priorities are. We’re changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t." A Memphis employee rights lawyer is following this story closely.

Musk, however, said in a tweet that he had "never written or said this" and that Vance's book was "not independently fact-checked" and should be taken "[with] a grain of salt." He later added that the claim was "BS & hurtful" and that another quote used in the piece — in which Musk describes himself as a "samurai" — was also incorrect. The Washington Post describes the quotation as coming from "an anonymous Tesla employee recalling an email from Musk" — a somewhat tenuous line of attribution. A Memphis employment lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The Post's presentation (as part of a list of the book's "22 most memorable quotes") does not suggest that Vance himself ever saw the email, but the description of the book describes it as written with "with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends." Vance reportedly spent 30 hours in conversation with Musk, and interviewed 300 people to write the book — a level of thoroughness that does not suggest bad fact-checking.

Whether the quotation is accurate or not it spread like wildfire online, mostly because it fits peoples' image of the tech CEO as a ruthless and fanatical figure, oblivious to what most of us consider regular human emotions. Apple CEO Steve Jobs arguably created the stereotype and Musk is carrying on his legacy. Another quotation published by the Post captures the PayPal founder musing over his love life: "I would like to allocate more time to dating, though. I need to find a girlfriend [...] How much time does a woman want a week? Maybe 10 hours? That’s kind of the minimum? I don’t know." There's been no refutation of this particular line.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Original Story: dallasnews.com

LAS VEGAS — Traveling about 55 mph on a Nevada highway, the big rig’s driver looked like The Thinker, with his elbow on the armrest and his hand on his chin. No hands on the steering wheel, no feet on the pedals.

Mark Alvick was in “highway pilot” mode, the wheel moving this way and that as if a ghost were at the helm.

Daimler Trucks North America LLC says its Freightliner Inspiration truck, the first self-driving semi-truck to be licensed to roll on public roads — in this case, any highway or interstate in Nevada — is the future of trucking. It’s a future that will still need drivers, but they might be called logistics managers. A Detroit automotive lawyer is following this story closely.

“The human brain is still the best computer money can buy,” Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, said Wednesday.

Although much attention has been paid to autonomous vehicles being developed by Google and traditional car companies, Daimler believes that automated tractor-trailers will be rolling along highways before self-driving cars are cruising around the suburbs.

On freeways there are no intersections, no red lights, no pedestrians, making it a far less complex trip, said Wolfgang Bernhard, a management board member of Germany’s Daimler AG, at an event in Las Vegas.

But it will be years before an autonomous truck hits the highway for anything more than tests and demonstrations, the company says.

The industry is watching the developments, said Ted Scott, director of engineering for American Trucking Associations, which represents trucking companies. A trucker tax service company specializes in providing tax services for truckers and the trucking industry.

He questioned what the economic benefit would be, with companies paying a driver’s salary on top of the new technology, even given the potential safety advantages — including less fatigued drivers.

“Being a tired driver is not as big of a problem as it’s often made out to be,” Scott said.

The group representing truck drivers, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, isn’t sure the technology would affect driving jobs, noting the abundance of openings now and the industry’s high turnover.

“We mainly have questions,” said Norita Taylor, the group’s director of public affairs, citing laws regulating how long a driver can drive and prohibitions on texting while driving.

Al Pearson, Daimler Trucks’ chief engineer of product validation, said the same laws still apply: no texting, no napping while in motion.

“We need an attentive driver,” he said, with the technology removing some of the stress.

Legal and philosophical questions stand in the way, as does perfecting the technology that links radar sensors and cameras to computers that can brake and accelerate the truck and handle any freeway situation.

Public perception of a self-driving car will also be a hurdle. Daum said society might forgive a number of deaths caused by tired truck drivers at the wheel, but they would never forgive a single fatal crash blamed on a fully automated big rig.

For now four states, including Nevada, and the District of Columbia, certify testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads as long as a human driver is behind the wheel, and a few others are keen on allowing the tests. A Washington DC automotive lawyer represents clients in the automotive industry in a variety of automotive law matters.
Bernhard said more states need to allow testing of autonomous driving before fleets of self-driving semis can fill U.S. freeways and interstates anytime soon.

The company is still far from taking customer orders for the trucks.

“We’re just getting people inspired,” he said.