Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Father Finally Finds His Son After Three Years, Hopes to Have Him Come Home

A mother, along with her then nine-year-old son, fled from Ireland in 2013. But after the boy’s mother died earlier this May, his father is now hoping to regain custody.

John Hopkins, a 40-year-old father, has not seen his son in three years.

The Tennessean reports that after marrying his wife Jackie in Las Vegas in 2002, the couple gave birth to Cody in Wisconsin, where the family was living until John’s mother became ill in 2006 and the family moved to Northern Ireland.

In 2013 Jackie began feeling homesick and flew to the U.S. with Cody and never returned. “My wife couldn’t make friends [in Ireland] and couldn’t get a job,” John said. “I knew she was struggling, but it was a complete shock when she just didn’t come back.”

Jackie has been on the run ever since and even changed her name.

“Cody is my only son and for the last three years I’ve been contacting someone nearly every day to try and get information,” John told the Irish Central.

In April, John finally found out that his son had been found and that his family had moved back to Wisconsin.

“I have been suffering with severe anxiety because of this,” John added, “but the moment I found out that Cody was safe, it just dropped away. It was a sense of pure relief.”

John filed a federal petition asking for his son’s immediate return to Northern Ireland. John also requested a temporary protective order — which could be terminated between 30 and 90 days — so Jackie couldn’t cause further damage.

Less than three weeks after John found his family, on May 8, Jackie died of a massive heart attack.

After Jackie died, U.S. District Court Judge James D. Peterson issued a temporary restraining order barring the Tennessee Department of Children Services from transferring or removing Cody from their custody.

As a result, John hasn’t been allowed to contact his son.

“When I heard the news, I just wanted to be with my son,” Hopkins said, but “child protective services says it’s a legal matter and needs to go through court first. I’m not allowed any contact whatsoever.”

There is an online petition in place to show the court how much Northern Ireland cares about Cody.

“He lived here for seven years and he has loads of friends around here,” John added. “We want him to come back to his life here.”

America’s First Muslim Clothing Store Challenges Stereotypes

Checking the Credit CardA typical American woman has 30 outfits in her closet for different uses and events, whereas in 1930 women had just nine outfits each. Yet when it comes to dressing for the occasion, a young entrepreneur is working to challenge the stereotypical beliefs on what is appropriate for women to wear.

Lisa Vogl has opened up Verona, the first brick-and-mortar clothing store specializing in modest Muslim clothing.

Located in the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando FL right in between a Dillards and The Limited, Verona hopes to cater to women of all faiths.

Vogl, an American fashion designer, converted to Islam in 2011. She started her own modest clothing and hijab brand in 2013 and since then has been challenging the apparent Islamaphobia towards Muslin women who choose to wear headcovers in western countries.

Vogl says her inspiration for creating a modest clothing store spanned from the challenges of going to the mall looking for undershirts and slightly modest clothing and coming up empty handed.

Without any formal fashion design training, Vogl launched Verona’s online boutique in February of 2015. She tells The Huffington Post that she aimed to give the clothing a western feel.

She explains, “Whenever you think about Islamic fashion, you always attach it to the Middle East. But Islam is such a diverse religion and you’re going to find millions of Muslims living in Europe and North America … So I ended up going with an Italian name to speak to the majority of our consumer base, which is European and American Muslims.”

This is working, as Vogl explains that the majority of her client base are non-Muslin women who are simply searching for modest clothing at a reasonable price.

Explaining the opening of Verona as being a significant milestone for the American Muslim community, Vogl hopes to expand her enterprise internationally. Within the next few years, she plans to expand this culture of influence and open stores in Paris and London.

Florida Judge Rules SEO Case Can Go Forward: Google Forced to Appear in Court

computerIn a somewhat unprecedented turn of events, a federal judge in Florida has decided that Google will be required to defend themselves in court in a lawsuit stemming from de-listing hundreds of websites from one particular company.

According to, E-Ventures Worldwide, a company that does search engine optimization (SEO), is suing Google after the world’s largest search engine slammed them for constituting as “pure spam” in 2014 and removed all of the domains they worked with from their site.

This isn’t the first time Google has been sued over something like this, but it is the first time they have been unsuccessful in getting the suit thrown out before it has a chance to get to court. Historically, Google has relied on First Amendment protections, essentially claiming they have the right to take virtually any action they see fit when it comes to ranking, listing, and utilization of their search engine.

According to Arstechnica, U.S. District Judge John Steele issued the following statement in his decision to allow the suit to be heard:

“While a claim based upon Google’s PageRanks or order of websites on Google’s search results may be barred by the First Amendment, plaintiff has not based its claims on the PageRanks or order assigned to its websites. Rather, plaintiff is alleging that as a result of its pages being removed from Google’s search results, Google falsely stated that e-ventures’ websites failed to comply with Google’s policies. Google is in fact defending on the basis that e-ventures’ websites were removed due to e-ventures’ failure to comply with Google’s policies. The Court finds that this speech is capable of being proven true or false since one can determine whether e-ventures did in fact violate Google’s policies. This makes this case distinguishable from the PageRanks situation. Therefore, this case does not involve protected pure opinion speech, and the First Amendment does not bar the claims as pled in the Second Amended Complaint.”

Approximately 131 billion searches are conducted on the web each month worldwide. Google is by far the most popular of search engines. E-Ventures is arguing that by, in essence, blacklisting their company from Google they’ve caused not only irreparable harm to them, but are creating an “anti-competitive” environment. E-Ventures claims that Google is basically trying to strong arm companies into using their pay-to-use AdWords program instead of a company like their own.

Whether or not Google will ultimately win or lose this case could have a big effect on the state of online search going forward. Google has until May 26 to respond to the judge’s ruling.

Commuter ‘Spin Bus’ Coming Soon to London’s Streets

Invest in your health advice on blackboard

With a commute to and from work sandwiched between an eight- to nine-hour workday, it can be fairly difficult to get your daily fix of cardio. As is, studies reveal that only 20.6% of Americans get the total daily recommended amount of exercise. And while 66% of men and 56% of women in the U.K. claim to get their daily recommended dose of exercise, these self-reported statistics are often unreliable and likely hold a much lower number in reality.
But now, one British fitness company is looking to help London commuters get their workout in while on their commute by turning city buses into mobile spin classes.
Conceptualized by 1Rebel, a London-based fitness company, the passengers would participate in an early morning spin class that lasts a total of 45 minutes. Then, the bus would stop at 1Rebel’s studio, where participants would be able to shower off and enjoy a smoothie before heading off to a busy day at work.
The bus, slated to be called “Ride2Rebel,” will from and to four pickup points in north, south, east, and west London.
“For those who want the components of a class but perhaps don’t have the time to commit during the day, this provides a great solution for them to maximise time they would otherwise be spending just travelling to work,” said James Balfour, one of the studio’s founders.
According to Mashable, the fitness company is currently negotiating with bus companies. However, in order for the mobile exercise bus to become a reality, it would have to receive sign-off from the government. If it does, the spin bus is expected to launch after summer 2016.
And if this idea takes off, perhaps it will pedal its way across the pond onto American streets. After all, there are 16,000 shuttle vans and buses working for shuttle services across the United States.

Silicon Valley is Obsessed (and Wrong) About Artificial Intelligence

white drone hovering in blue skyIn the same way that Apple gathers the world’s press for star-studded product reveals, this May Google has been showing off its vision for the future at I/O 2016, officially billed as “an immersive, three-day experience focused on exploring the next generation of technology, mobile and beyond.”

During the conference, Google offered new looks at futuristic new products and services. There’s Allo, an artificial intelligence-powered messaging app. Daydream is a mobile-powered virtual reality headset; Duo is Google’s answer to Apple’s FaceTime; and Google Home is a home automation device that will soon be competing with Amazon Echo.

While Google hopes these new devices and services will generate revenue in the short term, the company has much more ambitious long term plans. In an April 28 post on the official Google blog, Google CEO Sundar Pichai laid out plans to give birth to the world’s first artificial intelligence.

“Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the ‘device’ to fade away. Over time, the computer itself — whatever its form factor — will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI first world,” Pichai wrote.

Artificial intelligence is a term that gets thrown around a lot by Silicon Valley futurists. So often, in fact, that it’s no longer clear what the term actually means.

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: What We Talk About When We Talk About Artificial Intelligence

There’s no doubt that technology is now advancing faster than at any time in human history. Today, Americans have become so accustomed to high-speed Internet that 40% of people will bounce off a website that takes more than three seconds to load, even though the Internet has only been widely available for two decades.

Yet despite these advances, many people in Silicon Valley believe the time is ripe for an even greater leap forward. It’s called “the singularity,” an idea grounded more in science-fiction than actual science. In short, it’s the belief that we are living through a unique era in human history. As technology continues to evolve, we will eventually create an artificially intelligent computer, which will lead to an unprecedented explosion in technological evolution that will change life as we know it.

artificial intelligence concept

Last year, The Atlantic writer Erik Larson wrote an article busting some of the top myths about artificial intelligence, chiding Silicon Valley icons like Elon Musk for their less than scientific approach to AI.

“Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has openly speculated that humans could be reduced to ‘pets’ by the coming superintelligent machines. Musk has donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, in a self-described bid to help stave off the development of ‘killer robots.'”

In science fiction, artificial intelligence is often hostile (think “Terminator”), but in the real world, it’s slightly less menacing. Larson urged readers to make a distinction between “smart” technology and genuine AI, which remains a distant fantasy in 2016, no matter what the innovators of Silicon Valley say.

For instance, companies like Google and Apple already describe their products as a form of artificial intelligence, which may come as a surprise to anyone that’s used Siri for more than five minutes.

The truth is, human beings barely understand how the human brain works, and many AI skeptics believe we’re far, far away from replicating genuine sentience in a computer. But that hasn’t stopped Google from describing their new digital assistant as an AI-powered product.

Google also says that it’s uniquely qualified to create artificial intelligence as the leading organizer of human knowledge at the moment (and ever). Every month, Google receives about 100 billion search queries; that’s trillions a year and three billion a day. And as much progress as the company has made towards machine learning, the field of artificial intelligence is far less advanced than it’s often portrayed in the media.

Or at least that’s what Google’s Artificial Intelligence Chief John Giannandrea says about the current state of machine learning.

“I think computers are remarkably dumb,” Giannandrea said last year. “A computer is like a 4-year-old child.”

Remember that the next time a Silicon Valley CEO throws around the phrase artificial intelligence, because chances are they’re just trying to sell you something.

U.S Navy Changes Tattoo Regulations in Order to Bring Millennials Aboard

navy tattooOver half (53%) of employed workers are open to finding a new job even if they are not looking actively. And the United States Navy is hoping to win over some of these job seekers with the implementation of their new rules regarding tattoos.

The Navy is becoming more lenient this month when it comes to ink. Citing that their strict tattoo requirements have made it difficult to attract Millennials, the U.S. military branch has now relaxed its standards for new recruits.

Sailors are now allowed to have their tattoos extend past their elbows and knees. They even can have tattoos up to one inch on their necks.

Navy Personnel Lieutenant Commander Nate Christensen said that this act is driven by a new standard of appearances put forth by Millennials across the nation.

More and more young people have tattoos, and even though the Pentagon has stayed firm in their commitment to professional appearance, they decided to become more tolerant to bring in more recruits.

Christensen tells Jefferson Public Radio, “This policy change really is about being honest with ourselves and ultimately putting policies in place that reflect tattoo realities across America. We have the most talented sailors we’ve ever had in the Navy, but this is also about looking forward and making sure that our recruiting and retention are as good in the future as they are today.”

Tattoos are nothing new in the Navy. There is a whole exhibit at the Puget Sound Navy Museum in Bremerton, WA, that details the rich history of sailors and body art.

Curators are able to trace back naval tattoos to the 1700s, where the sailors would tattoo their initials and birth dates on their arms for identification if their body was discovered at sea.

The sailors would tattoo themselves by taking needles used to sew a ship’s sail, dip it in ink, and poke their skin. Not only was the process not sanitary, it was extremely painful.

These tattoo regulations have not been updated in 1909. The other branches of the military have kept their regulations the same.

New Smoke Alarms Announced From Roost Will Be ‘Smart’ and Affordable

smoke alarmThe world in which we live is getting smarter by the day. New technologies and advancements are constantly pushing the envelope, and two new “smart” smoke alarms announced from the home furnishing company Roost are adding to these advances.

According to, the project originally started as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 when the company enlisted the help of WiFi technology gurus Roel Peeters and James Blackwell to create a smart nine-volt battery that could be plugged right into existing smoke alarms.

After seeing the success that project had, the group decided to begin work on entirely new smart smoke alarms, and now they’re set to come to fruition and make their way into the market. In that sense, the developers don’t really see it as a maiden voyage into a new product but rather more of an advancement of their older one.

“It’s that kind of maturity and learning that we’re now bringing to the market with the smart smoke alarm,” Peeters said. “It’s not exactly a new product introduction, because we’re taking the lessons learned from that first product and really bringing that all together in the new products.”

Smoke alarms, of course, serve an incredibly important function in households, businesses, and establishments of all varieties. They typically have a lifespan of about 10 years. These new smart smoke alarms will provide the same functions, but with the added bonus of being able to control, check in, and connect via smartphone from virtually anywhere on the planet.

The two new models are the RSA-200 and RSA-400. The 200 baseline model is a fire and smoke detection alarm that runs $60. The 400 model will cost $20 more, but it is also a carbon monoxide detector. Those prices are significantly less than what you’ll find in smart smoke alarms from companies like Nest.

“If you look at the price points they’re at, it’s targeted at the one-percent,” Peeters said. “At Roost we’ve had a much more democratic focus on making the smart home affordable. We started with a battery you could use to retrofit [an existing smoke alarm], and we’re following that same thread here.”

Tribal Leaders and Arizona Congressman Call For Obama to Protect Grand Canyon

grandcanyonOver the past week, tribal leaders and Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva have asked President Obama to bypass Congress and name the 1.7 million acres around the Grand Canyon as a national monument.

Grijalva, a Democrat, is asking for Obama to call on the Antiquities Act, an act passed in February that will create national monuments on 1.8 million acres of Californian land. He believes that if he created a bill to make a monument, it would not be taken seriously from the Republican House.

The proposed bill, the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act, is set to protect 1.7 million acres, while banning mining and other extractions of natural resources.

It would also permanently prohibit uranium mining, an initiative that was imposed by the Interior Department 20 years ago.

Grijalava and the other tribal leaders believe these actions have the potential to threaten and decimate the native peoples who live around the canyon.

Havasupai Tribe Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi feels passionately that this act is crucial to save her people.

“We are nearing extinction,” Tilousi said to Arizona Capital Times. “We want my people to remain left alone from international mining companies.”

She also does not believe the money brought in by mining would not help her tribe in any way.

There were also representatives at the April 26 event from the Hopi, Navajo, and Hualapai tribes.

They all believe the only option is for President Obama to use executive action to protect the Canyon as the benefits most certainly do not outweigh the risks.

The Grand Canyon is a popular tourist destination and is home to many Native American tribes. As one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, the Grand Canyon averages 10 miles wide from rim to rim.

Pinterest Sets its Sights on the UK Market

As if taking over the United States wasn’t enough, Pinterest has set its sights on the rest of the world.

The popular growing online visual bookmarking tool that helps users discover and save creatimobile devicesve ideas has just announced its plans to go global. This comes six years after the site’s debut, and it now has more than 100 million users active monthly.

Contrary to popular belief, it has been a long process in monetizing the strong user base that is Pinterest. It only just recently hired its first U.K. employee in 2013. Although the U.K. is its largest market outside of the U.S., the company only began selling advertising there in April of 2016.

The company’s focus since then has been growing the business in both revenue and users on an international level.

One of the company’s newest features it will be releasing first on Android and web, then to international markets, is called Featured Collections. This feature will appear after users click on the search button and are a set of pins, users, boards and searches picked straight from Pinterest’s country editors, brands, and local “taste-makers.”

The second of the company’s international efforts is that it will be launching its first advertising campaign in the United Kingdom. The campaign consist of more than 100 different creative executions with the intention of showing how Pinterest can help solve everyday problems people face.

Users from all over the world use the site to help them find creative ways to stay organized and look good while doing so. With the average American household possessing more than 300,000 items, Pinterest helps users find ways to upgrade their homes or their wardrobes — or organize the items they already do have.

“What’s different about Pinterest is that it’s not a social service
,” said Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp. “It’s not really about sharing with friends at all. It’s a personal service. It’s about ideas for your future. What do you want to eat? Where do you want to travel? What do I want to do in my life?”

Wisconsin Student Sues Adviser After Finding Out He Played a Role in Mother’s Death

Gavel, symbol of judicial decisions and justiceIt’s not as devious as the headline might suggest, but it is an interesting development in an otherwise tragic event. According to the Milwaukee, WI, Journal Sentinel, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student is suing one of her advisers after learning he was the one on the other end of a text conversation that inadvertently led to her mother’s death.

In April of 2013, Megan Mengelt’s mother, Maureen, went for a run in their neighborhood. She was struck and killed by an SUV driven by a Lutheran bishop named Bruce Burnside.

Burnside clocked in at a 0.128 blood alcohol content level. He was also found to be distracted at the time as he was texting and driving. The person he was texting was Tori Richardson, Wisconsin’s College of Letters and Science assistant dean. In 2012, over 10,000 people were killed as a result of drunk driving, and overall, these accidents cost about $37 billion a year.

Richardson reached out to Megan soon after the accident and offered his help in anyway that he could, but he failed to mention that he was the person Burnside was texting at the time of the crash. It wasn’t until this past January that this information came to light through police reports and depositions being made public.

When Richardson approached Mengelt, he did not have a relationship with her prior. She was under the impression it was just a mentor offering help and support for a young student going through a time of grief. Now, she feels betrayed that he would let so much time go by without even mentioning the role he played in the unfortunate incident.

“If the plaintiff had any idea whatsoever that Richardson was a person with whom Burnside was engaged in a texting conversation at the time of Maureen Mengelt’s death, the plaintiff would not have chosen to have any contact whatsoever with Richardson,” says the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.

Burndside pleaded guilty in May 2014 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. For his part, Richardson, who has retained his position under extra supervision, meant for it to be a nice gesture that wouldn’t lead to much more contact. Instead, Mengelt is now arguing it has caused her sever distress.