You know it’s bad when pharma-bro Martin Shkreli calls you a ‘vulture’

The cost of EpiPens has soared over the past decade, and even the past months.
Image: Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, EpiPens have slowly overtaken the news. So what is going on with them exactly?

What’s happening with EpiPens?

Last year, Bloomberg broke the story that the pharmaceutical company Mylan had turned EpiPens into a cash cow of a business since it bought the product in 2007. In the past few weeks, those claims have come back to public attention.

Mylan, a huge international pharmaceutical company, has slowly raised the price of EpiPens from an average of $50 in 2007 to more than $300 today. Sold only in two-packs another change in the past decade EpiPens can cost as much as $600.

In the last few months alone, the price of EpiPens has gone up $100.

Who needs EpiPens?

EpiPens are a necessity for many people with a serious allergy. The life-saving drug is injected into someone suffering a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, in most cases to a type of food or bee sting. The reaction can narrow the breathing airway, sometimes making it impossible to breathe.

Most people with allergies need to own more than one EpiPen to keep at school and at home, for example, or in case a second shot is needed.

EpiPen is a brand name for an epinephrine autoinjector, but the EpiPen is by far the most common form. If families can’t afford EpiPens, it’s downright dangerous for people especially children with serious allergies.

There have been alternatives on the market, but most have failed. One notable competitor, Auvi-Q, burst onto the scene with high potential but sputtered when it faced a catastrophic recall in early 2016.

Epinephrine the active drug in an EpiPen is basically the same in every version, but the pen itself is patented technology.

The generic version of the product is called Adrenaclick, but doctors are often reluctant to recommend it since most people are trained to use EpiPens in time-sensitive, emergency situations.

At least 3.6 million Americans use EpiPens.

How did this happen?

When Mylan acquired the EpiPen, the drug didn’t turn much of a profit. Then, the company hit on a massively successful marketing campaign that used fear of child allergies to sell more EpiPens. The company’s revenue from EpiPens is now over $1 billion, compared to $200 million in 2007.

Since then, the price of EpiPens has risen more than 400 percent. The outrageous price hike is being compared to the hike to HIV drugs instituted by the infamous “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli.

Shkreli himself called Mylan “vultures” for their price hike, although he also defended the company.

The EpiPen doesn’t have any serious competition in the market, allowing its price increases to continue unchecked.

Why is this getting attention now?

EpiPens are usually covered by insurance, so many consumers didn’t notice the huge increases until their insurance deductibles started going up. Changes in how many insurance companies treat deductibles and co-pays have now passed the cost onto consumers. Now that deductibles have spiked along with the base price, consumers are taking notice.

At the same time, many parents are buying EpiPens right now to send to school with their children a requirement for any student with allergies at many schools.

Why are people so mad?

The EpiPen is a life-saving product that families count on to live with allergies. While the price of an EpiPen has risen exponentially, the components of an EpiPen have remained basically the same. A single EpiPen injects $1 worth of epinephrine.

At the same time that Mylan hiked prices on EpiPens, the company’s executives have gotten huge raises. Over the past eight years, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch’s compensation inflated from $2.5 million to nearly $19 million, including bonuses.

EpiPens now account for at least 40 percent of Mylan’s operating profits.

Who’s involved in this?

Mylan’s actions have woven a complicated web of players. Most notably, Bresch, Mylan’s CEO, is the daughter of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Machin’s colleagues in the Senate are calling for investigations into Mylan’s practices.

What has Mylan said about all of this?

Mylan put out a statement responding to criticism on Monday.

Mylan has worked tirelessly over the past several years advocating for increased anaphylaxis awareness, preparedness and access to treatment for those living with potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies.Ensuring access to epinephrine the only first-line treatment for anaphylaxis is a core part of our mission,” the company said. “We are proud of the programs which we have implemented over the past several years to help support access to treatment, including our My EpiPen Savings Card, a patient assistance program, and the EpiPen4Schools program which provides free EpiPen (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors to U.S. schools.”

Mylan also noted the changes in insurance policies that have raised deductibles for consumers.

What’s happening now?

Lawmakers Republicans and Democrats are calling for investigations into Mylan.

Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Mark R. Warner of Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have all sent letters to Mylan. Grassley and Warner requested information about how Mylan decides the cost of EpiPens, and Blumenthal demanded the company lower the drug’s price.

Sen.Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is asking the Federal Trade Commission and Senate Judiciary Committee toinquire into the Mylan’s practices.

A petition asking Congress to act on EpiPen price hikes has 84,000 signatures.

But for now, the price of an EpiPen remains extremely high. Some parents are going to the store to buy EpiPens for their children, seeing prices of more than $1,000, and turning right back around.

Amie Vialet De Montbel, a Virginia mom whose 12-year-old son is severely allergic to milk, told the health and medicine news site Stat News that she left the store without buying the two two-packs of EpiPens she needed when she found they would cost $1,212. Her insurance has a $4,000 deductible, so she would have had to pay the entire cost herself.

I dont even pay that much for my mortgage,” she said.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/24/epipens-mylan-price-hike/

Google’s internet-beaming balloons could be ready for business soon under new boss

Christopher Schuster, Manager of The Project Loan Lab at Google, works on a flight electronics system for the Loon balloons inside the top secret Google X research lab.
Image: Corbis via Getty Images/Brooks Kraft LLC

Project Loon, Google’s high-profile effort to put broadband-emitting balloons into the stratosphere over remote parts of the world, is getting a new leader with practical industry experience.

X, the research division of Google parent company Alphabet Inc., said Tuesday it hiredTom Moore, co-founder of satellite-based broadband service provider WildBlue Communications Inc. He starts as a vice president at X and general manager of Project Loon in mid-September.

Mike Cassidy, a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has run Loon since early 2012, will remain at the company’s X lab to develop new research projects.

The balloon effort at Google has been one of the few to show continued progress inside X, the research labresponsible for the poorly reviewed internet-connected spectacles, Glass, and Google’s driverless car division, which has recently suffered from the departure of several leaders.

X has been testing its balloons around the world since 2013, partnering with wireless operators like Vodafone NZ in New Zealand, Telstra in Australia and Telefonica in South America to provide internet access in rural and mountainous areas that aren’t served by traditional terrestrial networks.

The move to bring in an industry veteran with commercial experience mirrors other efforts at Alphabet to turnambitious, risky research projects into profitable businesses. Last year, the company hired John Krafcik, the former head of Hyundai Motor America, to lead its car project into that next stage.

Verily, a health care research project, has signed commercial partnership deals with big companies in that industry. Google Fiber, which spent years buryinghigh-speed fiber-optic internet cables beneath Kansas City and otherU.S. cities, recently shifted to deploy its servicewithcheaper wireless technology.

“Toms valuable industry experience will help launch us into the commercial stage,” Astro Teller, head of X, said in a statement. “Were looking forward to working with telcos around the world to integrate Loon with their networks.”

Moore co-founded WildBlue in 1998 to use satellites to serve consumers and small businesses without access to land-based internet services. In 2009, it was acquired by satellite communications providerViaSat Inc., where Moore has since worked as a senior vice president overseeing consumer, enterprise and mobility businesses as well asmergers and acquisitions and strategic initiatives.

That business experience will be needed at Loon, which faces big challenges. Providing internetconnectivityto rural and developing markets may mean fewer customers, or customers with less money to spend on such services. And wireless carrierswere initiallycautious about working with Loon because they saw it as a potential rival.

Moore was traveling and could not be reached for comment. In a statement, he said, “Billions of people still lack affordable, reliable access to the educational, cultural, and economic opportunities of the Internet, largely due to the costs and challenges of connecting rural and remote parts of the globe. The world needs fresh approaches like Project Loon, which can help overcome terrestrial obstacles like mountains and jungles, and has made far more progress than anyone would have expected.

X said Tuesday that its balloons have traveled more than 17 million kilometers, with many staying airborne for more than 100 days. Software developed by Loon guides the balloons into favorable winds, which allows them to remain over land for longerand transmit broadband internet access directly to mobile phone handsets below. A test site in Puerto Rico is capable of launching a balloon every 30 minutes, it added.

An X spokeswoman declined to saywhen Alphabet might begin offering balloon-based internet service but said it is currently in discussions with telecommunications companies. Last year, Loon signed a deal to test its internet-beaming balloons with Indonesia’s three largest wireless carriers. The X spokeswoman said those tests have not started yet, but the parties still plan to pursue them.

This article originally published at Bloomberg here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/24/google-project-loon-satellite-broadband/

Millennials aren’t ready for higher inflation

Millennials aren’t ready for inflation.
Image: Getty Images

For the Federal Reserve to succeed in its mandated bid to anchor inflation higher, it needs to overcome a big demographic hurdle: millennials don’t expect prices to rise anytime soon.

There’s a good reason for that: Americanswho entered the workforce from 2000 onwards have experienced a benign inflation climate, with core Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) price inflation averaging just 1.7 percent, below the Fed’s 2 percent target. And the PCE rate hasn’t breached 2.5 percent at any point since the turn of the millennium.

That compares with an average 4.3 percent annual core PCE growth between 1965 to 2000, the adult life-span for the majority of the baby-boomers’ generation.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that those under 40 consistently report lower inflation expectations than their older counterparts.

Structural changes in how price pressures are generated throughout the U.S. economy will form a key plank of the Fed’s discussion at the Jackson Hole summit this Friday, where officials will discuss the long-term efficacyof its monetary policy regime,particularly in light of the breakdown in the formerly tight relationship between inflation expectations and realized outcomes.

Nick Colas, chief market strategist at brokerage firm Convergex Group LLC, has a message for the Fed ahead of the gathering of monetary policy makers: millennials hold the key to fulfilling your dual inflation/employment mandate.

Colas says the Fed faces an uphill battle to bake inflation expectations higher, since the younger generation actively embraces deflationary forces: technology, as well as subsidized education and healthcare.

In a research note on Tuesday, Colas, a millennial himself,urges the Fed to understandthe lowflation experience of the young members of the workforce.

Theres one demographic who views low inflation as a feature, not a bug however: millennials. In order for the Fed to restore and maintain credibility for the long-term, it must instill confidence in this generation that it can actually spur inflation expectations.

He adds:

To put it simply, were not accustomed to high inflation because we havent seen it. Therefore, its much easier convincing our parents it will return because they fear it will climb like in the 1970s, requiring the subsequent harsh policy response from former Fed Chair Paul Volcker. It took him creating two recessions as a means to end stagflation. On the other end of the spectrum, we dont want to live out Japans deflationary experience in the 1990s, a troubling situation the country still hasnt been able to rectify.

Millennials covetdeflationary forces as its current drivers new technologies reap social and economic benefits, posing as an existential threat for the Fed’s mandate, he concludes.

In this case, its not that we are waiting for lower prices, but that the newer services economy is creating downward pressure on daily expenses by cutting out inefficiencies by the use of technology. Our parents couldnt enjoy these benefits as technology wasnt as advanced when they were our age. Now the sharing economy, numerous apps, and crowdsourcing sites disrupt older business models and provide us with access to everything from transportation and music to movies and a place to stay thats within reach financially.

To millennials, declining prices for consumers is a healthy development. The combination of a more tech and service-based economy than our parents encountered in their early adult lives encourages deflation. Either inflation should hold less weight in the Feds dual mandate, or the central bank needs to find a way to change our thinking.

In a development that bodes ill for theU.S. central bank’s millennialoutreach, the Fed’s Facebook page, launched last week, is now overrun by young critics, who accuse the monetary authority of everything from fueling a bubble in real-estate to demolishing savings by keeping rates low.

This article originally published at Bloomberg here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/24/fed-millennials-inflation/

Grieving Mom Posts A Jarring Image In Hopes It Reaches Dead Daughters Drug Dealer

It’s hard to realize the reality that drugs are a huge problem. Deaths due to drug overdoses have now outnumbered the annual death toll for motor vehicle accidents.

That’s nothing to overlook.

Drug use is a problem in all sorts of communities, in every class, and in a wide age range. It needs to be treated as the very real problem it is.

Drug overdose affects so many families, claiming beloved family members far too early. It might just be too late before a family even gets the chance to realize that a loved one had a problem, and to put a stop to it.

Tina Wells Louden lost her daughter, Ashley Shannon, to a heroin overdose in 2013. She was just 24 years old at the time of her death, and already had two daughters of her own.

Instead of celebrating with her daughter, Tina Wells Louden took this picture with Ashley’s ashes and shared itwith the community.

Understandably, it got traction almost immediately, and tens of thousands of people have shared and liked her post.

On what would have been Ashley’s 28th birthday, Louden also posted these words, pleading to her daughter’s drug dealer to recognize what effect their business has on so many people.

Posting this picture and message wasn’t an easy thing for Louden to do, but she knew that she had an important message to share.

She received an incredible amount ofsupport on this very difficult day, which filled her heart with hope.

Her daughter’sproblem with drugs started with prescription medication, and escalated from there. She struggled for five years to get clean.

But the battle is unlike anything that those of us who have never experienced it either first- or secondhand would understand.

Ashleywanted to get clean for her children and for her family, but the pull this drug had on her was too strong.

Louden continues to raise as much awareness for this epidemic as she can, and she hopes that her daughter’s story will change some families lives for the better.

Ashely died far too young, and her lost battle with heroin has left her family hurting forever. She is just one of so many whohas died of this, and it needs to stop.

Read more: http://www.littlethings.com/tina-louden-daughter-heroin-overdose/

Man Body-Shames 3 Olympic Gymnasts Abs In This Bikini Shot Then A Woman Shuts Him Down

It can sometimes feel as though were constantly being inundated with new body-shaming stories, but I suspect something else is going on and its truly a wonderful change to see happening.

Were actually talking about the issue of womens bodies. More than ever before, women and girls are publicly reaching out to support one another and bravely share their experiences so that others might learn from it.

The more we discuss an important problem, the less that problem will ultimately continue occurring. What better way to arm ourselves with than information?

Recently, former TheX Factor star Stacey Solomon became the focus of this very topic when she responded to a tabloid spread of her in a bikini. The magazine had made extremely negative comments about her appearance and even went so far as to compare her to another woman minding her own business!

And it doesnt just happen to celebrities, either. Everyday women are facing public scrutiny from all angles, especiallyon the way to the gym.

Its frankly quite disgusting to read some of the things that are being said, but its important that we continue listening to those who are affected by this awful form of bullying. One day, well live in a world where this doesnt happen to women and girls especially if we dont let this discussion disappear!

Sadly, the Team USA’s Final Five gymnasts specifically, Simone Biles, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman received negative comments about their own bodies. Because, of course, someone had something nasty to say.

Thumbnail: Twitter, BuzzFeed, Instagram

“Rio beach day <3″ Simone wrote, posing for a picture on the sandy shoreline alongside fellow Olympic gymnasts Madison and Aly. No one can deny these three have earned a very well-deserved vacation!

Not only did Simone sweep the competition by winning a whopping five gold medals at the Olympics this year, but she also became the first female gymnast to carry the American flag at Closing Ceremonies.

As for her teammates? Aly earned six medals, making her the “second-most decorated American Olympic gymnast,” and Madison won a silver medal for the uneven bars, the first time in a long timethat an American achieved such a feat.

Collectively, “This was the first time any U.S. team won two consecutive team golds.” I think its safe to say these ladies are as talented as they are inspiring!

Except, jealousy is a horrible, all-encompassing emotion, and some people just cant handle seeing others succeed. Right after Simone posted that beach photo, a self-proclaimed (and very appropriately named) “angry hippy” decided he had something important to contribute.

He wrote: “Y’all find this attractive? lmaaoo.”

Its clearly a reflection on his own character that he found an image of three amazing young women enjoying themselves to be funny in any way. But as we all know, men with little self-confidence have a lot to say about the women who have far more strength of character than they do.

That’s when an incredible young lady joined the discussion and set social media on fire.

Crystal McDuffy is a student at the University of Florida. She regularly celebrates her own self-confidence and empowerment by posting selfies on Twitter. It can be a scary thing to put yourself out there for public scrutiny, but McDuffydoes this with all the poise and grace of someone who knows exactly who she is. And that’s so inspiring, particularly for other young women and girls!

But when shesaw Simone, Madison, and Aly get brought down by a random guy on the internet? She knew it was time to step up forallwomen.

“Be it in sports, politics, business, and more, women continually seem to be evaluated based upon whether theyre attractive in a mans eyes,” McDuffytold BuzzFeed News, and it’s a pervasive problem that she hopes to counteract.

“They’re the best gymnasts in the world,” Crystal wrote, beginning what would be a scathing, concise tweet seen the world over.“I promise you, they didn’t get those abs to impress your dusty a**.”

Oh my God. I don’t know about you, but I literally cheeredout loudwhen I first read this. It’s really heartening to see Crystal’s words being shared everywhere online so much so, that the outpouring of support for her has been utterly staggering.

“Everything women do is not for male consumption or approval,” she said to BuzzFeed News. I couldn’t agree more!

Following her sudden rise to internet notoriety, Crystal posted this tweet regarding the news coverage of her story. “All I ever want to do is provoke thought,” she wrote.

“When I tweet, aside from gaining a few laughs, my ultimate goal is to get people to reflect on why they do and say the things that they do,” she told BuzzFeed News.

There’s an important lesson in this story for all of us, and it goes beyond the issue of body-shaming. Crystal’s thoughtful, deeply compassionate words are starting a revolution in the way we challenge outrageous beauty standards. It’s thanks to incredible people like Crystal that bullies are finally being called out for their behavior!

Now, treat yourself to all theactual fun these super amazing ladies had soaking up the sun in Rio during their beach day. You’ll be glad you did!

Please SHARE if you were also inspired by this story!

Read more: http://www.littlethings.com/final-five-bikini/

Young Couple Restores Old Dairy Barn For Their Beautiful Country Wedding

On the rare occasions that I get to drive upstate, passing the many old abandoned barns always makes me wonder what it would be like to give one a good remodel.

Mike and Alisha Mathalia must have had the same thoughts when they purchased an old dairy barn to be turned into a beautiful event venue.

Beautiful weddings in barns is not a new concept. In fact, they happen in the south and west of the country all the time!

But this couple is bringing the idea to the northeast and have created their own amazing farm house for clients to celebrate in.

And they loved the final product so much that they ended up having their own wedding in it!

The photos of the their stunning, rustic celebration need to be seen to be believed.

Check below to take a look we bet you’ll be wanting to find your own barn to restore by the end of them!

[H/T: Country Living]

After Mike and Alisha Mathalia’s son was born, the couple moved upstate where she could start her own event venue.

And they found the perfect space to make it all possible an oldbarn!

Located in Vernon Center, NY, it was once a family-run dairy farm and was definitely in need of a facelift.

“To say the building was in disarray is an understatement, but we had a vision we wanted to see come to life,” explained Alisha to The Venue Report.

But the couple put all of their efforts into making it the best barn that it can be.

And after 18 months of hard work, Hayloft On The Arch is now a completely exquisite event space!

Though beautiful barn weddings are definitely more common in the south and west, the couples has already helped several brides-to-be plan their big day inside the dreamy upstate New York venue.

They even had their own wedding there and made it into a rustic, cozy, and decidedly country affair.

From cool old barrels to beautiful boxes of flowers, no detail was spared when it came to the event’s atmosphere.

“We wanted a more laid-back and relaxed feel for our guests, and we think they felt that as soon as they arrived,”Alisha said.

The white fireplace looked like it was pulled straight out of another era.

That, combined with the other antique-looking accents, like the rug, really makes it into a dream wedding destination.

And the beautiful open space in the barn is a completely enchanting sight to see.

With the lights strung through the support beams, it almost looks like a big rustic palace.

The cute couple’s commitment to their budding business really showed at their wedding.

And after looking through their photos, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want to book their wedding inside a big barn!

The dazzling day was completed with a fireworks display proving that these tworeallyknow how to entertain!

If you believe barns are the perfect wedding venues, make sure to SHARE with friends and family on Facebook.

Read more: http://www.littlethings.com/couple-restored-barn-for-their-wedding/

Universal Patents A Wand And Spells Ride That Sounds Perfect For A New Harry Potter Attraction

Hold on to your sorting hats, folks. Looks like a new ride might be on its way to Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

The Orlando Business Journal reported Monday on a new patent filed by NBCUniversal subsidiary Universal City Studios LLC that details an interactive video-game ride involving wands and spells. While the patent does not expressly state the ride would be for anything Hogwarts-related, the language does mention the possibility of a “wizard-themed game.”

It sounds like theme-park goers would sit in a vehicle that would move about a course designed to receive signal inputs from various controllers, including wands! And in order for wands to dictate a rider’s path, it would make a whole lot of sense if there were spells involved.

The patent states that the ride could involve participants competing against one another, scoring points along the way and could even be tailored to various users’ ages. The ride concept sounds somewhat similar to the immersive video-game experiences Universal is creating in partnership with Nintendo

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been undergoing a pretty massive expansion in the past few years, with an additional land added in Orlando, and two new Potter-themed areas opening more recently in Japan and California. Here’s to hoping the expansion continues!

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/harry-potter-wand-ride-universal-theme-park_us_57be50f1e4b085c1ff27ba7c?section=&

Clinton on foundation attacks: ‘I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire’

(CNN)Hillary Clinton slammed Donald Trump and issued a strong defense of the Clinton Foundation Wednesday amid the Republican nominee’s claims that she used public office for personal gain.

Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper in her first national news interview in nearly a month, Clinton pushed back against Trump’s accusations and issued perhaps her most succinct answers on her use of a private email server during her time leading the State Department.
    “What Trump has said is ridiculous,” Clinton said. “My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right.”
    She added: “I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire.”
    Trump has recently upped his attacks on Clinton and her family’s namesake foundation, saying that foreign governments and business leaders gave primarily to get something in return.
    “It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins,” Trump said Tuesday night at a rally in Austin, Texas. “The specific crimes committed to carry out that enterprise are too numerous to cover in this speech.”

    ‘Unique circumstances’

    Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, has laid out some steps the foundation will take if his wife wins. It will only accept donations from US citizens, legal residents and US-based independent foundations, and the 42nd president will step down from the board and stop fundraising.
    Asked by Cooper about why she is waiting until a possible presidency to make the changes rather than implement them immediately, Clinton said, “Obviously, there will be some unique circumstances.”
    “Didn’t those unique circumstances exist when you were secretary of state?” Cooper interjected.
    “No, no, look — I know there is a lot of smoke and there is no fire,” Clinton replied, before blasting an Associated Press report out this week that said more than half of the private citizens with whom she met while at the State Department donated to the foundation.
    “It draws a conclusion and makes a suggestion that my meetings with people like the late, great Elie Wiesel or Melinda Gates or the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus were somehow due to connections with the foundation instead of their status as highly respected global leaders,” Clinton continued. “That is absurd. These are people I would be proud to meet with, as would any secretary of state would have been proud to meet with, to hear about their work and their insights.”

    Pushback from Powell

    Clinton has reportedly told FBI investigators that her use of the private server was inspired by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has pushed back against the suggestion, saying, “Her people have been trying to pin it on me.”
    Cooper asked the Democratic nominee about the disparity in the two former diplomats’ claims.
    “I am not going to relitigate in public my private conversation with him,” Clinton replied. “I have been asked many, many questions in the past year about emails and what I have learned is that when I try to explain what happened, it can sound like I am trying to excuse what I did. And there are no excuses. I want people to know that the decision to have a single email account was mine. I take responsibly for it. I apologize for it. I would certainly do differently if I could.”
    She added, “I believe the public will be and is considering my full record and experience as they consider their choice for president.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/politics/clinton-blasts-ridiculous-trump-attacks-on-foundation/index.html

    Peter Thiel has backed a startup that makes it easier to sue and win

    Legalist uses a database of legal records to determine the likelihood that a case will succeed, and can fund the suit in exchange for up to 50% of the judgment

    Peter Thiel has backed a small legal startup that has developed an algorithm they say will allow a would-be litigant to learn if they are likely to win their case.

    Legalist, founded by a pair of Harvard undergrads, uses a vast database of local legal records to determine the likelihood that the case will succeed: and if the algorithm says the case can win, Legalist funds the suit in exchange for up to 50% of the judgment.

    Eva Shang co-founded the startup with a $100,000 Thiel Foundation grant. She told the Silicon Valley Business Journal, which first reported on the startup on Wednesday, that Legalist wasnt interested in the kind of suit Thiel funded against Gawker through Hulk Hogan. Shang said the startup focuses on small businesses tied up in costly litigation; the firm has accepted a single case so far.

    Shang told the Guardian the startup was funding limited cases at the moment and stressed what she said were the businesss philanthropic aims. I used to work for a public defender in DC, she said. Were not funding criminal cases, nor would I be funding any suits against the media.

    Litigation financing as a field is growing so fast, but the one area its not actually getting to is small businesses.

    Shang said she didnt understand when she took the Thiel fellowship that it would come with so much negative attention. I accepted the Thiel fellowship because my parents are first-generation immigrants and when I was dropping out of Harvard, money was a concern, she said.

    Thiel famously pays undergraduates to drop out of college, and Shang is among this summers crop of former students.

    At the moment, Shang and Christian Haigh, the other founder, are the only people who decide what suits to take. Shang said she had considered forming an advisory board to mitigate ethical concerns. The press attention on the Thiel-backed startup, she said, has been stressful.

    Haigh said he could not answer questions until Friday. The pair is attending consecutive meetings at a conference sponsored by one of the startups other backers, Ycombinator.

    Ycombinators Sam Altman told the Guardian he did not think Legalist would be used to fund lawsuits attempting to chill the press and characterized the business as one that defends the little guy. There are a lot of people who really get screwed over by the legal system and who end up unable to defend themselves, he said. Shang used the example of a bakery damaged by a burst pipe bogged down in costly litigation.

    But there is always the possibility that the ready availability of enough cash to pay for an aggressive suit will encourage litigation. Altman admitted the problem was complex: With legal financing, this is one case where I can really empathize with both sides of the argument, he said.

    There is also the practice of scouting for courts where local laws are particularly friendly to the kind of case a litigant wants to pursue. Fully one-fourth of all patent law cases are heard in a single town in Texas where the judge is known for overturning so-called patent troll judgments, Motherboard writes. That can get counsel into trouble, but it can also work out in their favor: Judge Pamela Campbell was far friendlier in the Hogan case, when Thiel was backing the plaintiff than US District Judge James Whittemore, the first time Hogan sued the website over the tape.

    Thiel told the New York Times he was upset Gawker had outed him in a 2007 blog post entitled Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People and backed the suit against the site in an effort to chill reporting he deemed ruined peoples lives for no reason. A New Yorker profile of Thiel from 2011 reported that Thiel had come out as gay in 2003.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/24/peter-thiel-legalist-startup-gawker-lawsuit

    Massachusetts is subsidizing its taxi industry by taxing Uber

    Massachusetts taxis will get a boost from a new tax on ride-hailing in the state.
    Image: david l. ryan/Boston Globe via Getty Images

    Ride an Uber, give five cents to the struggling taxi industry.

    Massachusetts will tax Uber with a new law that uses some of the fees to support the traditional taxi industry.

    The state is introducing a $0.20 per-trip fee for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. Ten cents from that fee will go toward local transportation infrastructure in cities and towns, 5 cents will go toward the state’s Department of Public Utilities and 5 cents will support Massachusetts’ taxis.

    The tax, part of comprehensive transportation legislation passed in early August, is likely the first of its kind. It amounts to a subsidy for the struggling taxi industry provided by the massively successful ride-hailing industry.

    Uber and Lyft will have to pay the tax directly, without passing on the fee to riders or drivers.

    We are grateful for Governor Bakers support and the legislatures effort towards creating a framework that embraces an innovative industry that has changed the way the Commonwealth moves,” Uber Boston General Manager Chris Taylor said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the administration to implement the law to ensure it increases transportation options and economic growth.

    Uber operates throughout Massachusetts, covering the greater Boston area as well as significant portions of western Massachusetts.

    The statewide law and its locally allotted funds takes some pressure off of local jurisdictions to independently regulate Uber’s growing presence.

    The fees are temporary. The taxi subsidy is in place for five years, and the entire tax is in place for 10.

    It hasn’t yet been determined exactly how the taxi industry will spend its portion of the tax income. All the law specifies is that the money from the fee will “provide financial assistance to small businesses operating in the taxicab, livery or hackney industries to encourage the adoption of new technologies and advanced service, safety and operational capabilities and support workforce development.”

    The legislation is framed as in support of “innovative transportation options” in Massachusetts.

    I am pleased to sign bipartisan legislation to ensure Massachusetts remains a leader for innovative new technologies, with safe and diverse transportation options and opportunities for hardworking individuals to earn a living,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. This regulatory framework includes many of our own proposals to embrace disruptive technology and prioritize public safety to give consumers safe and reliable travel choices.

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/23/uber-massachusetts-tax-taxis/