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3 Deals for $20 or Under That Every iPhone User Should Buy

We all rely on our smartphones for pretty much everything these days. So turn into the skid and pick up some essential accessories that’ll have your phone fully charged, securely in position and snapping some amazing images, thanks to this trio of deals from The National Memo Store.

10-Ft MFi-Certified Lightning Cable: 3-Pack

These 10 foot(!) monster Lightning cables stand ready to handle all your syncing and charging needs for your iPhone, iPad or iPod, via either your PC or through an Apple Power Adapter. Their MFi certification means you’ll have optimal charging power whenever you need it. And best of all, you’ll now have three of them for less than the price of one in the Apple Store. Use one now, and stash two away in the back of your drawer for that rainy day.

Buy now: This bundle is now $20, 77% off its original price.

‘ExoMount Touch’ Universal Car Mount

The ExoMount Touch Universal Car Mount affixes itself squarely on your dash and clamps tight to your smartphone, allowing you to navigate or take calls with your hands stuck firmly to your steering wheel. The ExoMount’s suction-cup base makes it easy to use – and most importantly, it may end up saving your life.  Pick it up now at more than a third off its MSRP.

Buy now: Get it for $18.75, a 37% savings from its original $30 retail price.

Smartphone Telephoto PRO Camera Lens

What’s your biggest beef with your smartphone camera? If it’s the less than tight zoom feature, step up your game with this easily attached telephoto lens that’ll get you up to 8 times closer to your subject.  Whether you’re shooting panoramic vistas or ultra-tight detailed compositions, just clip this lens on your camera and you’re ready to go.

Buy now: Retailing at $90, this lens is on sale right now for only $17.99 (80% off) for a limited time.

This sponsored post is brought to you by StackCommerce

Will Trump’s Order Help US Tech Workers Or Not?

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Let’s describe the problem with an example. A few years ago, Southern California Edison employed 300 foreign tech workers through the H-1B visa program. They took the jobs of American IT specialists who suffered the added indignity of having to train their replacements.

The foreign workers were paid at least $40,000 a year less than the laid-off Americans. The Americans couldn’t complain publicly to Congress because the company had them under a gag order.

All this was perfectly legal.

Up to 85,000 skilled foreigners, mostly from India and China, come to this country a year under the H-1B program. It has drawn bipartisan concern.

President Trump just issued an executive order directing federal agencies to suggest changes in the visa rules. What to make of it is hard to say.

“It’s weaker than it could have been,” Ron Hira, a political scientist at Howard University and longtime H-1B critic, told me. “Some things can be done through policy guidance, policy memos and regulation writing.”

On the other hand, Hira was pleased that Trump at least acknowledged the problem, something his predecessors had not done.

Disney, Citibank and Hertz are among the heavy users of H-1B visas. Goldman Sachs does it in a shadowy way, hiring IBM to provide the H-1B labor.

Hira, a son of immigrants from India, has described the abuses in testimony before the U.S. Senate:

Nearly 4 in 5 of these visas go to workers with low-level skills and, therefore, low-level pay. Many are “low-level” only because employers can, in Hira’s words, “define the position at whatever level they want.”

Employers must pay what’s being called a “prevailing” wage for the area. But in the world of H-1B visas, that’s not the same thing as the median wage. It’s a wage significantly lower, often 40 percent, than the median wage.

As a result, IT outsourcers enjoy net profit margins as high as 25 percent. Using American workers would cut their profit margins to 8 percent at most.

The foreigners are sometimes mistreated, as well. The employer holds the visa, so complainers can be summarily dismissed and subject to deportation. India-based Tata, a top recipient of H-1B visas, tried to collect fees from workers who had quit.

Such controversies are not unique to the United States. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has demanded an overhaul of a similar program. Canada got to the heart of its dilemma by raising wage levels for foreign workers.

Which the U.S. could do. But Trump did not go there in his vague executive order. He merely asked for studies.

Suspicions run high that establishment types in the White House are not keen to deny corporate America access to cheap labor. The financial industry, in particular, is a major consumer of IT services.

One way to appear to be fixing a problem while ensuring it will not be fixed is through legislative deceit. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa recently pushed a trick bill that would have done little other than take the issue off the table.

Not that Trump would ever mislead the public … but let the record show that his companies have tried to import at least 1,000 temporary foreign workers. Shalabh Kumar, a major Trump donor and native of India, recently announced that Trump would, if anything, expand the H-1B program. And Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said that reforming it was not a top priority.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says he’s “grateful” for the executive order. Less enthusiastically, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin calls it “a guarded and timid approach.” It may be no approach at all, but perhaps Trump will astonish us — in a good way.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

 

Shorter Road Ahead For Driverless Cars

Friends keep orating that driverless cars are something in the far-ahead future. Apparently, they’re not. That future is near.

Exhibit A is Google’s decision to get into the auto insurance business. Now Google wants to be in everyone’s business. But its foray into insuring drivers is highly plausible for a company deep into developing driverless cars.

In a driverless car, you the “operator” may be texting, drinking, or having sex, but if you’re in an accident, it’s the software’s fault, possibly. Another nice thing about driverless cars is that we’re far less likely to be in accidents. That’s because humans and their frailties are taken out of the equation.

Obviously, we’re still in the driver-driven reality, so the new Google auto insurance site will let car owners compare the rates on conventional coverage offered by various companies. Google gets two things out of this. One, it drains more personal data from users. Two, it takes a cut whenever someone picks a policy on its site.

But come the driverless future, the current model of auto insurance goes out the window. Accidents will be the fault of the software or the car’s mechanics. And software will decide whether it or the metal is to blame.

“After an accident, the onboard computer and sensors will be able to determine whether it was caused by a poorly designed algorithm or a parts failure,” Xerox insurance executive Valerie Raburn explains in The Wall Street Journal.

Fewer accidents and fewer humans mean that car insurance payments will go way down. In fact, they could be made to disappear. Raburn thinks that Google will eventually roll the cost of insurance into the price of its driverless cars. Thus, Google gets a third thing out of entering the auto insurance business: a monopoly on coverage.

Some predict that the whole notion of owning a car will dissolve. After all, one could easily summon a robotic chauffeur via an app, the way we can call a cab or an Uber car. (Surge pricing probably will be a lot harder to pull off.)

Two flies in this ointment. For starters, where will you keep the sunscreen, the extra pair of glasses, and the dog pillow, not to mention the yoga mat and cooler stored in the trunk? This is a semi-public space in which you have no hoarding rights.

The other concern is this: Suppose the occupants of the driverless car before you were slobs. You are picked up by a vehicle littered with empty soda cans and discarded tissues, pizza leavings on the seat. Human drivers can police the passengers in back for anti-social behavior.

One supposes there will be sensors and algorithms to detect littering, in addition to reading your mind. Perhaps an ejection seat mechanism can be attached. Just thinking.

That’s down the road. What’s in the now?

Britain has already permitted trial runs of driverless cars in several cities. The thingies on the road are being called not cars but “pods.” They look like lopped-off Fiat 500s, if you can imagine.

In the United States, driverless cars will be tested in a make-believe town — Mcity — to be built by the University of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Thrown in the cars’ path will be mechanized pedestrians and bicycles, traffic circles, junk in the right lane, changing road widths, curb cuts, and an enormous collection of signs and traffic signals. If the cars can handle this, they may someday be able to master Shreveport, Louisiana, and Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Driverless cars are clearly here, almost. Speed the day.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. 

Photo: General Physics Laboratory via Flickr

Google To Deploy Drones With Internet-Emitting Payloads

Last April, Google and Facebook engaged in a bidding tussle over the aerospace manufacturer Titan.

Google eventually won the battle, stating they would top all of the social media giant’s bids. (What they officially paid has not been publicly disclosed, although Facebook’s last offer was $60 million.)

As Ben Popper recently reported for The Verge, Google will begin conducting test flights of drones produced by Titan.

Invested in connecting people worldwide, whether in rural areas or in third-world population centers, Google looks to employ a “super-lightweight solar-powered airplane that would be capable of hovering in one area of the stratosphere,” writes Popper.

The drones are a counterpart to Google’s Project Loon — a program that develops high-altitude balloons that emit Internet-streaming signals. The extra bandwidth provided by the drones and balloons would deliver Internet access to underserved or disaster-struck areas on demand.

Google’s senior vice president, Sundar Pichai, sees the Loon program and Titan drones complementing one another “as a mesh of flying cell towers circling overhead,” according to The Verge.

Although it will take at least a few years of development and testing before the drones get off the ground, Google’s hope to bring the world’s four billion people under its umbra of “connectivity,” looms just beyond the horizon.

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According to a CNET report, the Federal Aviation Administration is looking into industry partnerships with drone operators. If the FAA loosens regulations — which currently prohibit the use of drone flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight — big businesses and entrepreneurs are expected to flock to the opportunity.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) supports the opportunities the technology presents for crop monitoring, railroad inspections, real estate scouting, and delivery services that airworthy drones would usher in.

Any changes in regulations would take at least two years to finalize, according to Forbes. But that isn’t stopping businesses from trying to streamline the process.

“I don’t know what triggered it. They’re talking to us and we’re collaborating,” said Google executive Dave Vos, talking about the government’s possible change of heart toward drones. It could be that the U.S. has more restrictions on unmanned flights compared to Canadian, Australian, or British policies, where commercial drone operators are permitted to practice long-range flights.

Yet even this amount of government cooperation pales in comparison to its expansive military use of drone technology. The feds are at once advocates of their own drone use abroad and opponents of the aircrafts’ non-violent uses domestically.

Apart from death tolls we hear on the news and John Oliver’s memorable jeremiad against the military use of drones, many of the notions of unmanned aircraft we receive come from car commercials, films, or short stories, preparing us for perhaps not-so-distant realities.

Screenshot via FlightBots/YouTube