Monthly Archives: August 2015

Russia wants a piece of the possible treasure on the Nazi ghost train

A tunnel with tracks for mining cars, part of the Nazi Germany “Riese” construction project, pictured near an area where a Nazi train is believed to be at, near Walbrzych southwestern Poland, on Monday.

Russia wants a cut of the stolen loot on the rumored Nazi gold train found near the Czech Republic, The Telegraph reports.

According to The Telegraph, the Russian website Sputnik interviewed a “human rights lawyer” regarding the rumored treasure stashed on a train of “military nature” between the Polish towns of Wroclaw and Walbrzych.

“Representatives of Russia should undoubtedly be involved in determining the value of the items discovered if the train is located,” lawyer Mikhail Joffe reportedly told Sputnik.

“If the property has been taken from territory, including USSR, then the cargo, in accordance with international law, must be passed to the Russian side, Joffe said, according to The Telegraph.

Polish culture minister Piotr Zuchowski spoke out against Russia’s attempt to preemptively claim some of the contents on the train.

“The analysis we have conducted with our lawyers quite clearly states that if the train is found, it will be owned by the State Treasury,” Zuchowski said in an interview with the Polish radio station Jedynka.

Zuchowski reportedly said in a news conference that if valuables are discovered on the train, the items will be “returned to the heirs of their former owners,” the Telegraph reports.

Robert Singer, CEO of the World Jewish Congress, released a statement on Friday saying, “Any items now being discovered in Poland may have been stolen from Jews before they were sent to death … it is essential that every measure is taken to return the property to its rightful owners or to their heirs.

“We very much hope that the Polish authorities will take the appropriate action in that respect.”

Poland’s Nazi ghost train legend

nazi tunnel

A tunnel with tracks for mining cars, part of the Nazi Germany Riese construction project, pictured near an area where a Nazi train is believed to be at, near Walbrzych southwestern Poland, on Monday.

Earlier this month, two unidentified men said they found a lost World War II train, prompting military-history buffs, rail enthusiasts, and treasure hunters to search for the train.

map nazi train

The route where the Nazi ghost train was found.
Google Maps/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

Zuchowski asked people to stop looking for the cargo, saying, “There’s a huge probability that the train is booby-trapped.”

Police spokeswoman Magdalena Koroscik told the Associated Press that another growing concern was train accidents.

People can’t escape “a train that emerges from behind the rocks at 70 kph (43 mph),” the Associated Press reports.

Therefore the exact location of the 300-foot-long train is unknown except for that it is somewhere along a 13,000-foot track that winds through the Polish towns of Wroclaw and Walbrzych.

polish train

A railway security guard’s car seen next to people observing a cargo train traveling in an area where a Nazi train is believed to be at, in Walbrzych, southwestern Poland, on Sunday.

According to local folklore, the German train is believed to have vanished in 1945 with stolen gold, gems, and weapons while fleeing the Russians.

To secretly transport materials, the Nazis built several underground tunnels in the mountainous region of Walbrzych during World War II.

Despite some doubt of the train’s existence, Poland has requested that its army to investigate the site, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, investigators in Poland have suggested that the recently discovered train “could be the first of many,” The Telegraph reports.

On Friday, Zuchowski said in a news conference that he was “99% convinced” that a Nazi military train was buried near the southwestern city of Walbrzych, the BBC reports. During the same news conference, Zuchowski referred to ground-penetrating radar images that show contours of an armored train equipped with gun turrets.

Apple wants to make its own TV shows and movies, according to a new report

Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Apple has been meeting with Hollywood executives with an eye toward making its own original TV shows and movies, Variety reports.

The news comes just more than a week before Apple’s September 9 event, where it’s expected to launch the next version of its Apple TV set-top device.

According to Variety’s sources, a division of Apple that reports to iTunes frontman Eddy Cue has been sounding this out for a while. While accounts vary, apparently Apple is looking to make Netflix-style long-form TV content.

In fact, the report says, Apple made an “unprecedented bid” for “Top Gear” hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond after they left the BBC car-enthusiast show in July. Apparently, Apple ultimately lost to Amazon, which offered $36 million for Clarkson alone.

This move would ratchet up competition with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon in an effort by Apple to strengthen its own content platform and make the Apple TV a more differentiated device in a crowded marketplace.

Currently, the iTunes store only sells episodes a la carte, but given Apple Music’s monthly all-you-can-stream subscription fee structure, it’s certainly feasible that it could move to a Netflix-style subscription plan for this content, too.

The news comes as Apple is also reportedly seeking to create an over-the-top streaming television service, which would bundle several cable channels and be available through the Apple TV device. Apple has apparently been negotiating with various media companies for quite some time, but a streaming video service could arrive as soon as next year for a starting price of $40 a month, 9to5Mac recently reported.

Apple’s plan to create its own original content is apparently still in the early phase, and will likely not get announced at next week’s event. Still, if this report pans out, it’s a sign that Apple is even more serious about its TV ambitions.

Next week, Apple could finally succeed where Microsoft has failed for almost 20 years

Apple CEO Tim cook
Getty Images/Stephen Lam

Word on the street is that Apple is planning on introducing a long-awaited major overhaul to the Apple TV at its September 9th event.

If the rumors are true, the new Apple TV will be a $200-ish machine with an intriguing new motion-based remote, a version of the Siri virtual digital assistant, and, most importantly, access to a full-fledged App Store, taking it well beyond the 60-some-odd carefully chosen media partners it currently supports.

In other words, the new Apple TV will be a full-fledged computer – or at least, a full-fledged iPad – in your living room.

If those rumors pan out, it means that we’re nearing the finish line of a race between Microsoft and Apple that started way back in the nineties.

The first Apple “TV”: Only in Disneyland

A prototype Apple Interactive Television Box.
Wikimedia Commons

After Steve Jobs left Apple in the early nineties, CEO John Sculley tried to expand the company beyond the Macintosh computer with a series of failed consumer electronic devices, including portable CD players, personal digital assistants, digital cameras – and a set-top TV device.

That device, called the Apple Interactive Television Box, never actually made it to market, except for a trial run in as many as a thousand Disneyland Hotel rooms in 1995, proving that it was close to ready for sale. Apple’s box would have provided the ability to pause and rewind live TV, four years before TiVo hit the market.

There was another initiative, too: The Apple Pippin, a design for a video game console using the Macintosh operating system. The idea was to license the Pippin blueprints to electronics manufacturers, who would actually take it to market.

Apple saw the Pippin as a way to extend the Mac’s reach into the living room, with plans to ultimately extend it into a full-fledged living room computer. The design even included a modem with a web browser.

The Bandai ATMARK video game console, with
Wikimedia Commons

Apple actually licensed the Pippin design to toymaker and game publisher Bandai, which sold it as the Bandai ATMARK and Bandai @WORLD consoles starting in 1995. The names were nods to its web capabilities.

Ultimately, the Pippin was ahead of its time: It was too much like a computer, and wasn’t simple enough for the buying public. Bandai’s Pippin-based consoles were also up against some stiff competition at that point, including the Sony PlayStation and the Sega Saturn.

In 1997, Bandai gave up on selling the consoles in North America and shipped them back to Japan. That same year, Steve Jobs would return to Apple, and killed all of the company’s efforts to let other people make Macs, including the Pippin.

But the idea of using games to get computers into the living room has stuck around for a while.

Apple’s small-screen ambitions kind of fell by the wayside after that, until the Apple TV hit the market in 2007.

After an initial marketing push, though, even the Apple TV fell by the wayside in favor of the iPhone money-making machine: The last time the Apple TV got a major refresh was 2012, and then a mild update in 2013.

Microsoft’s WebTV failed to set the world on fire

WebTV Founder Steve Perlman

Microsoft got a little further than that. In 1997, Microsoft purchased hot Silicon Valley startup WebTV, founded by ex-Apple engineer Steve Perlman, for $425 million, with Bill Gates himself participating in the negotiation process.

At that point, WebTV had about 150,000 subscribers for its epynomous service and set-top box that basically provided a web browser and email on your TV screen. The idea was to give access to the Internet to those who weren’t geeky enough to have an actual PC.

At the time, Microsoft was riding high off the massive success of Windows 95. Gates had recently identified the Internet as the world-changing force it would soon prove itself to be, and he wanted Microsoft, and by extension, Microsoft Windows, to be a big part of it.

When the acquisition was announced, Microsoft shared plans to eventually put Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer on the device. It wasn’t a huge surprise, given Microsoft’s laser focus on Windows at that point.

WebTV was a never a huge success, but it had some hardcore fans. In 2001, it was rebranded to MSN TV, to include Hotmail and MSN Messenger support. In 2013, it was finally shut down with little fanfare.

But the legacy of WebTV is with us today: Members of the WebTV team contributed to the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One video game consoles.

Microsoft took some other shots at putting a full PC in the living room. Most notable was Media Center, a version of Windows that supported a remote control and multimedia functions like DVD playback and TV broadcasting. It never took off, and with Windows 10, Microsoft has eliminated it from Windows.

The Xbox Trojan horse

Bill Gates unveils the original Xbox at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
AFP PHOTO/Jeff Christensen

The original Xbox console came about because Microsoft was worried about Sony’s PlayStation 2, which was enticing developers away from making games for Windows.

Plus, with the inclusion of a DVD player, Sony made no bones about the fact that it saw the PlayStation 2 as its own first step towards making a video game console into a media hub.

With the Xbox, built on top of the same DirectX technology that powers Windows games (but without anything we’d recognize as “Windows,”), Microsoft made a credible play to keep its developers happy while providing a roadmap towards trying that whole “computer-in-the-living-room” thing again.

It was risky. The video game market is notoriously hard to break into. But it worked, with over 24 million Xbox consoles sold over its lifespan.

The Xbox was established as a serious player in the market. And by appealing to gamers, Microsoft finally had a real beachhead in the living room.

The follow-up Xbox 360 went a step further: In addition to games, it had a bunch of video apps, including Netflix and Hulu. With the Xbox 360, Microsoft was perpetually walking a fine line between selling it as a video game console and as a multimedia hub. Eventually, Microsoft even came out with Internet Explorer for the Xbox 360, basically revisiting the WebTV concept.

But, again, it worked, in part because the Xbox 360 beat Sony’s PS3 to market by a full year. The Xbox 360 was the best-selling system of its generation with 84 million units sold.

But it still wasn’t the full Windows-on-TV experience that Microsoft had been looking for.

Then came the Xbox One…

From Microsoft’s Xbox One announcement presentation.

With the Xbox One, which came out in 2013, Microsoft got cocky and put the gaming focus on the back burner.

When Microsoft first announced the console in 2013, it focused mainly on the Xbox One’s multimedia capabilities, leaving the video games as an afterthought. A lot of gamers who had supported the Xbox 360 found this alienating.

Then, Microsoft announced the Xbox One would require the motion-sensing, movement-tracking Kinect sensor, meaning that the system would cost $500 at retail – $100 more than the Sony PlayStation 4.

In exchange for the higher price tag, Microsoft promised that the new system, plus Kinect, would provide an unprecedented user experience, including immersive games and television shows that you could actually interact with. Plus, it shipped with Bing-powered search and the Internet Explorer browser preinstalled.

This was finally going to be Microsoft’s perfect living room computer: Games, media, and the Web, all in one box, and attached to the TV.

Except for one problem: Gamers hated that idea. The backlash was huge.

Six months after it launched, Microsoft nixed the Kinect requirement for the Xbox One, and started selling the console minus the sensor for a more competitive $399. Microsoft’s press events and public appearances after that primarily focused on games.

Kyle Russell/Business Insider

But it may have been too late. The Kinect drama, and that initial higher pricetag, is one likely reason why the Xbox One is getting creamed by Sony’s PlayStation 4 – according to VGChartz, people have bought almost 14 million Xbox Ones, compared with nearly 25 million PlayStation 4s.

In addition, the Kinect has basically fallen into irrelevance, with no developer wanting to make games for an accessory that most people didn’t have. Microsoft closed the doors on the studios that were making the interactive TV content last year, too.

That isn’t stopping Microsoft from trying yet again. This November, Microsoft is finally giving every single one of the estimated 14 million Xbox One consoles its sold a full upgrade to Windows 10 under the hood via a downloadable software update.

That means there will be about 14 million Microsoft Windows PCs, optimized for media and gaming but also capable of productivity and web browsing, attached to the television. It’s the fulfillment of the plan that Microsoft originally made way back in 1997 with WebTV.

The war for the couch

A picture illustration shows Apple Inc’s logo reflected in a person’s eye, in central Bosnian town of Zenica, March 13, 2015.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Come this Holiday season, consumers will have two options for real computers that attach to their TVs: The new Apple TV, and the newly souped-up Xbox One.

In a weird way, they’re going to be a lot alike, especially if the new Apple TV remote is also a game controller, as some have surmised.

And they have their own advantages, too. Apple’s App Store is the marketplace of choice for many developers, not least because it tends to be a lot more lucrative than stores for other platforms. With an App Store, the Apple TV could get a lot more flexible and useful, filling in the gaps in its library very quickly.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft Xbox One has some of the biggest, most lucrative franchises in gaming, plus the Xbox Live online gaming service, plus tight integration with Windows 10 computers. Apple is good for a lot of things, but gaming, outside of the Angry Birds-style free-to-play game, isn’t exactly its forte.

If anything really makes a difference here, it would be that Apple TV is explicitly named and marketed as something to help you watch TV. Plus, it has the partnerships with TV networks like HBO and Showtime to back it up.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s core gamer demographic for the Xbox One has traditionally reacted very poorly to anything that takes away from its focus on playing games.

If Microsoft can’t sell the Xbox One as a media device, even with the Windows 10 upgrade, then this long, 17-year hike to getting Windows in the living room will have all been for nothing.

And if the Apple TV ends up back in its current position as a footnote in the company’s history, even after all of this, it might mean that the idea of a computer for your television was just never very good in the first place.

How to tell if someone is lying

Every human in every culture uses the same facial expressions to indicate happiness, sadness, and surprise, anger, disgust and fear.
Paul Ekman Group

One thing the Ashley Madison hack has underscored: there’s an awful lot of people who lie and cheat in the world, or at least who want to.

For those of us that aren’t in that camp, lying can be one of the most confusing, least understood parts of human nature.

The Ashley Madison incident prompted lying expert Paul Ekman, Ph.D. to send us a list of the 8 myths about lying.

Ekman is famous for his research on lying. The television series ‘Lie to Me’, which ran for three seasons from 2009 to 2011 was based on his work. He was also a consultant for the movie “Inside Out” and has been hired by everyone from homeland security to politicians.

He’s also put together a bunch of online self-paced training classes to teach people how to “read” others.

Think you can spot a lie? How about detecting other emotions?

We’ve got a test for you below.

The 8 biggest myths about lying, by Dr. Paul Ekman:

Myth #1 – Everyone lies. Not so. Not about serious matters, not about lies which if caught could result in the end of a relationship, employment, freedom, large sums of money or life itself. Those are what I call high stake lies; they are the lies that the police and the FBI and insecure spouses are trying to catch. They are the lies of the criminal, the terrorist, the philanderer, the embezzler, and what the cops call ‘bad guys.’

Myth #2 – No one lies. Hardly. Nearly everyone tells low stake lies. Politeness, for example, or praising the host for a dull dinner and conversation, flattery, and so forth. No one really expects to be told the truth in those situations.

Myth #3 – Women can spot lies better than men. No they can’t; most people are terrible lie catchers, fooled by high stake lies again and again. Often they want to believe the liar. Do you want to find out your lover is unfaithful, your children are using hard drugs, the person you recommended for the job is embezzling? These are hard truths to accept, so the target of the lie often cooperates in being misled because the truth is too painful.

Meet The Parents

Myth #4 – Psychopaths are perfect liars. Psychopaths are no more skillful at lying than anyone else, but they are so charming we want to believe them, and we do.

Myth #5 – Looking up and to the left is a sign of lying. The research shows that which way you look before answering a question is unrelated to whether you are lying.

Myth #6 – Micro facial expressions are proof of lying. Fleeting facial expressions do reveal an emotion that is being concealed, and that is a kind of lie, but innocents under suspicion may conceal their fear, or anger about being suspected. You need to find out why they are concealing their emotions in order to judge whether it is sign they are guilty of the offense you are investigating.

Myth #7 -The polygraph is a reliable lie detector. Scientists have not discovered a silver bullet, which works on everyone, to betray a lie. The polygraph, the so-called lie detector, is just a little bit better than chance. Yet it does have its use in a criminal investigation – if only one of the suspects fails the test, he or she is the first one to investigate, bearing in mind that this suspect may be the most nervous or worried about not being believed, though innocent.

Myth #8 – It’s hard to spot a lie from how people behave. There are what I like to call “hot spots” which indicate you are not getting the full story. If you really do want to catch a liar there are nearly thirty different hot spots to pay attention to.

Micro facial expressions and gestural slips are the two most important ones, but there are many more. For example, a slight shrug, usually of one shoulder, coinciding with a verbal statement of confidence is an example of a “hot spot” revealed in a gestural slip. Something is awry. Another is a slight head shake no, only very slight, when saying “yes.”

Now, for the test …

Which picture of Julie Roberts indicates that she’s lying and which one indicates she’s being genuine?

Paul Ekman Group

Answer: Fake smile on the left, real one on the right.

Real smiles include “smiling with your eyes,” indicated by the narrowing of the eyes and, often, crows feet.

Which emotion is this guy expressing?

“It doesn’t matter what language you speak, where you live, what you do for a living – the facial expressions you show for anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, contempt and happiness will be the same. You share these expressions with all human beings, and many of them with the great apes,” says Dr. Ekman.

So, what’s the guy feeling in each picture?

Paul Ekman Group

Answer: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise.

And here’s an analysis of each expression taken from the TV show “Lie to Me.”

Paul Ekman Group

Today marks the start of a huge event that affects the entire digital advertising industry

Time is ticking for Flash.

From today (September 1,) Google’s Chrome browser will begin blocking Adobe Flash ads, favoring HTML5 ads instead.

More than 90% of rich media ads (ads that are animated, or change when a user’s mouse pointer passes over them) on desktop use Flash, according to Sizmek, meaning if the ad industry hasn’t chosen to take action, the majority of ads served to Chrome users won’t work properly.

And with more than one in two (51.74%) internet users running Chrome on their desktop computers, according to StatCounter, the impact of September 1 on the internet ad industry can’t be underestimated.

Here’s a screenshot of what a website will look like when Flash is blocked on Chrome. You’ll notice a “play” button on top of the ads, which appear grayed out. Google says it is pausing ads by default to “improve performance for users” and it’s providing advertisers a bunch of tools to help translate their ads from Flash to HTML5.


Given that the average click-through rate for display ads in the US are just 0.08%, it’s clear this is an issue. The creative has been compromised, and users are going to be very unlikely to click to play the ads.

Aside from Google, Firefox has also blocked Flash over security concerns following several instances of vulnerabilities in the software being compromised by hackers. Amazon has also banned Flash ads from appearing on its platform, and Apple has never supported Flash on the iPhone.

The phasing out of Flash could see “shake-ups” in the ad tech space

Eric Franchi, cofounder and chief evangelist at ad tech company Undertone, which specializes in rich media ads, said the fallout from the move away from Flash could see some “shake ups” in the ad tech provider space.

He told Business Insider: “Publishers should begin migrating ad formats and campaigns to HTML5 as soon as possible. Ad tech companies, particularly those in the rich media space, need to do the same. They need to sunset their Flash products and move to HTML5. This is a significant undertaking, so it’s possible we could see some M&A in the space as companies with older Flash-based technology look to upgrade quickly.”

“Every single company” in the ad tech industry will be affected by the switch, from supply-side to demand-side, according to Vlad Gurgov, the chief technology officer of Virool, a video ad network.

He says not everybody is ready: “On September 1st, the market will go haywire as supply significantly drops. The most complicated piece here is that there will still be some inventory available to Flash-based content. These are premium placements that are generally full-screen. However, after September 1st the available Flash-based, premium inventory will significantly drop causing the price to dramatically go up. As the tech provider, we will still accept Flash-based creative from our clients however there will be less inventory available that will support it.”

US trade body, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB,) has been providing its members with a series of initiatives to help ad tech companies handle the migration from Flash to HTML5. That has included updating its creative display guidelines, revising its HTML5 guide for ad designers and creative technologists, and running events and webinars.

Scott Cunningham, SVP of the IAB and general manager of the IAB’s Tech Labs, said publishers have already by and large gone through this shift already some years ago, as they concentrated on converting their sites for mobile. But he says it’s the creative shops that will need help.

“Clearly Flash provided different elements. A lot of that can be replicated in HTML5, but it’s a different skill,” Cunningham said.

There’s another issue as publishers and the ad tech world gets its head around HTML5: File size. HTML5 ads may be more beautiful, and are perceived to be more secure, but the files can be a lot larger than Flash.

Cunningham said: “We recommend publishers do a lot of due diligence around file size. With mobile carrying dating rates, consumers are more in tune with their user experience than ever before … it’s important for publishers to apply strict controls.”

The ad industry and online publishers have had ample warning that Adobe Flash is dying a death of 1,000 cuts, but it will now be evident which companies have made the necessary preparations.

I tried the San Francisco restaurant that serves quinoa delivered via robot cubbies, and it’s totally awesome

A new restaurant opened in San Francisco Monday, but it’s not your typical fast-food joint.

Eatsa, at 121 Spear St., has a menu that revolves around the grain quinoa – pronounced “keen-wah” – and eliminates employees and time spent waiting in lines by taking orders through tablets and serving food from robotic cubbies.

The goal of the restaurant is twofold: Create a lightning-fast food experience on the cheap by automating the service process as much as possible – workers’ salaries make up about 30% of the restaurant industry’s costs – and to promote a healthy food that’s efficient to produce.

Eatsa says that substituting quinoa for meat as a protein is better for the planet because it requires one-thirtieth of the energy.


The concept attracted some snark on Twitter:

But my coworker Melia Robinson and I tried it out today, and it was a great experience – the quinoa was the perfect vessel for other tasty toppings and the serving process was quick and enjoyable.

Because it was opening day, the place was packed and there were a bunch of Eatsa employees hanging around to explain the concept to hungry patrons. Eventually, Eatsa plans to only have one or two people working the front and a small kitchen staff behind the scenes:

Tech Insider / Melia Robinson

Inside, the atmosphere is sleek and modern, and you’re ushered toward one of the handful of available tablets, where you place your order.

First thing’s first, you swipe your credit card – no cash transactions here – which allows the system to input your name. It also keeps track of your favorite orders if you become a repeat customer.

You can build your own bowl by choosing from a variety of toppings for your quinoa or pick one of the suggested “Chef’s Bowls,” each of which provides full nutritional information:

Tech Insider / Melia Robinson

Then you wait in front of a wall of translucent cubbies. There’s a digital screen overhead that lists each customer’s first name and last initial. When your food is ready, you’ll be directed to a cubby number:

Tech Insider / Melia Robinson

Even though the place was packed, our meals “magically” appeared in their respective cubbies less than 10 minutes after we placed our orders:

Tech Insider / Melia Robinson

Eatsa promises that all its meals are nutritious and relatively healthy.

I ordered the burrito bowl, which was loaded with guacamole, salsa, cheese, portobello mushrooms, corn, tortilla chips, beans, and, of course, quinoa.

Although it had the most calories of any of the Chef’s Choice options – 646 per meal compared to many options that only hit the high-400s – it packed a lot fewer calories than a veggie bowl from Chipotle, which has around 1,300 calories.

Tech Insider / Melia Robinson

Overall, I loved the experience and the food was delicious – and filling. I saved a big portion of my meal for the next day’s lunch.

Sometimes the noisiness of a place like Chipotle, where you have to scream to the server as they try to rapid-fire shuffle people through the line, stresses me out, so I appreciated the ease of ordering through a tablet and watching my food appear.

Seattle is considering a crazy workaround to let Uber drivers unionize

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Uber’s classification of its drivers as independent contractors means drivers are not entitled to many standard worker rights. Drivers aren’t eligible for minimum wage or mileage reimbursements.

The other thing drivers can’t do? Have any form of collective bargaining, such as a union. The National Labor Relations Act, which gives employees the right to collective bargaining, does not apply to independent contractors.

Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien wants to change that, at least for Uber drivers in his city. Next week, he will introduce a legislative workaround to allow any “for-hire” driver to unionize, according to an announcement from the city. This includes drivers for Uber and Lyft as well as taxicabs.

Seattle has historically regulated the taxi industry closely, establishing cost per mile and other regulations. For this new wave of drivers who are independent contractors, O’Brien wants to give them the power to negotiate for the issues that are important and not leave it up to the city.

“If they have some leverage, some negotiating power, then I feel better than the city having to regulate all aspects,” O’Brien told Business Insider.

The proposed legislation would allow Seattle drivers join a nonprofit that qualifies as a “Driver Representative Organization.” These non-profits will receive a list of eligible drivers from Seattle and have 120 days to show that a majority of the company’s drivers have chosen to be represented. O’Brien is still finalizing the legislation, but he said it’s likely there will be some threshold of rides that would make a driver eligible for collective bargaining.

If the organization gets that majority vote in a process similar to joining a union, the non-profit will be able to argue for things like minimum wage and paid time off, although those aren’t guarantees.

“It wouldn’t extend the existing labor laws. It would simply say that if they wanted to form a bargaining unit, as an obligation of operating in the city, you have to come to bargain with good faith,” O’Brien said.

Seattle already has information on drivers who have a “for-hire” license, but Lyft expressed concerns about it handing that data over to special interest organizations.

“The proposed legislation raises a wide range of questions, including concerns over the privacy rights of Seattle residents. Requiring the city to turn over an individual’s private information to special interests without their consent is a dangerous precedent. Applying this proposal narrowly to one industry is also a serious concern,” a Lyft spokesperson said.

Uber has not seen the legislation since it has not been formally submitted and could not comment on it directly. “Uber is an important contributor to the local economy in Seattle — helping to create new opportunities for many people to earn a better living,” an Uber spokesperson said.

500,000 fewer people watched the Miley Cyrus-hosted VMAs this year

Host Miley Cyrus was unable to help the MTV VMAs attract a bigger audience than last year’s show.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, feuds, crying, and 10 Viacom channels still couldn’t attract an audience that topped last year’s VMA awards.

Despite all the chatter surrounding Sunday’s MTV VMAs and the fact that it aired on six more Viacom channels, the show attracted 9.8 million total viewers. That’s 500,000 less viewers than the 10.3 million who tuned into last year’s show.

While no network wants to see its audience decrease, MTV does like looking for the silver lining. It was ranked No. 1 among the channel’s younger-skewing audience demographic of 12-year-olds to 34-year-olds.

Also, the show generated a lot of social chatter. It was the most tweeted program in the history of Nielsen’s social ratings.

Michael Shannon says the viral ‘Batman v Superman’ story about him wearing flippers as General Zod was just a joke

Michael Shannon.
Larry Busacca/Getty

Turns out it’s hard to know when Michael Shannon is joking.

Earlier this month the actor told a reporter for Vulture that he is starring in the upcoming movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” reprising his role as General Zod from the 2013 film “Man of Steel.”

He then went on to tell a funny story about an incident that happened on set.

“I was in my costume, and I couldn’t use my fingers because in the sequel I have flippers instead of hands,” he told the reporter. “So I had these wax flippers on my fingers, and I couldn’t open the door, and I could hear Zack [Snyder, the director] being like, ‘Where’s Shannon? Where the f-k is he?’ and the whole crew was standing around. I was like, knocking on the door with my flippers, ‘Let me out of here!'”

Michael Shannon as General Zod in “Man of Steel.”
Warner Bros.

Fortunately, Shannon was finally let out by a person in craft services, as the story goes.

The story went viral across the internet, with many sites coming up with theories as to why General Zod would now suddenly have flippers.

But when talking to Business Insider on Monday Shannon came clean: the story was a joke.

“That was me just having a laugh,” Shannon told BI while doing press for his new movie “99 Homes.

“I mean, honestly, the whole situation is kind of absurd because you’re not supposed to talk about it. They [the studio] tell you, ‘Don’t talk about it,’ and people keep asking you about it.”

Shannon says he made up the story to entertain himself, because it can get boring when reporters ask the same questions over and over again.

“Every once in a while to amuse myself I say something ridiculous and it’s amazing how it takes off,” he said. “I guess people are that desperate to get some glimpse into – I mean, can’t you just wait for the movie to come out? Isn’t it more fun that way? I don’t understand this thing about knowing everything about a movie before going to see it.”

Shannon said he wasn’t surprised that his fake story took off. “I have a very dry sense of humor,” he continued. “I deliver this information in a very matter-of-fact way. But Zod has flippers? Are you kidding me? Why would Zod have flippers? That’s Aquaman or something.”

So, it sounds like there will be no flippers for Zod in “Batman v Superman” after all.

Unless, he’s just having fun with another reporter…

Artist behind infamous Tom Brady courtroom sketch got a second chance, but it was ‘a nightmare’

CBS Boston

Tom Brady was back in the courtroom on Monday – for a whopping four minutes – for a settlement hearing in his case against the NFL in the Deflategate scandal.

Also back in the court on Monday was Jane Rosenberg, the artist behind the infamous courtroom sketch of Brady that launched a thousand memes.

Rosenberg met with the media outside the courtroom and showed off a practice sketch of Brady that is much more flattering. Clearly Rosenberg is a talented artist and that shines through when she has more than a few seconds to sketch a courtroom full of people.

Here is another view of the portrait compared to the original.

However, in the courtroom, things turned out a little differently, with Rosenberg calling it “a nightmare.” Rosenberg only had a few minutes and Brady was sitting in the back of the courtroom with numerous people between him and Rosenberg. This was the result.

In showing off the sketch to the media, Rosenberg acknowledged that it was not the best portrait of Brady. “I still think I made him look like Lurch,” Rosenberg said and later added that she is just glad it is over.