Aisling Bea: My fathers death has given me a love of men, of their vulnerability and tenderness

The comedians father killed himself when she was three. She was plagued by the fact he made no mention of her or her sister in the letter he left. Then, 30 years after his death, a box arrived

My father died when I was three years old and my sister was three months. For years, we thought he had died of some sort of back injury a story that we had never really investigated because we were just too busy with the Spice Girls and which one we were (I was a Geri/Mel B mix FYI). Then, on the 10th anniversary of his death, my mother sat us down and explained the concept of suicide. Sure, we knew about suicide. At 13, I had already known of too many young men from our town who had taken their own lives. Spoken about as inexplicable sadnesses for the families, spoken about but never really talked about terrible tragedy nobody knows why he did it. What we had not known until that day, was that our father had, 10 years beforehand, also taken his own life.

When I was growing up, I idolised my father. I thought his ghost followed me around the house. I had been told how he adored me, how I was funny, just like him. Because of our lovely Catholic upbringing, I secretly assumed that he would eventually come back, like our good friend Jesus.

My mother, being the wonder woman that she is, never held his death against him. When she looked into his coffin, she felt she saw the face of the man she had married: his stress lines had gone, he seemed free of the sadness that had been dogging him of late. But it was still tough for her to talk about. She didnt want to have to explain to a stranger in the middle of a party how he was not defined by his ending, but how loved he was, how cherished the charismatic, handsome vet in a small town had been. She didnt want his whole person being judged.

Once she had told us, I did not want to talk about him. Ever again. I now hated him. He had not been taken from us, he had left. His suicide felt like the opposite of parenting. Abandonment. Selfishness. Taking us for granted.

I didnt care that he had not been in his right mind, because if I had been important enough to him I would have put him back into his right mind before he did it. I didnt care that he had been in chronic pain and that men in Ireland dont talk about their feelings, so instead die of sadness. I didnt want him at peace. I wanted him struggling, but alive, so he could meet my boyfriends and give them a hard time, like in American movies. I wanted him to come to pick me up from discos, so my mother didnt have to go out alone in her pyjamas at night to get me.

I look like him. For all of my teens and early 20s, I smothered my face in fake tan and bleached my hair blond so that elderly relatives would stop looking at me like I was the ghost of Christmas past whenever I did something funny. You look so like your father, they would say. And as much as people might think a teenage girl wants to be told that she looks like a dead man, she doesnt.

Aisling Bea with her father. Photograph: Aisling Bea

And then there was the letter.

My mother gave us the letter to read the day she told us, but, in it, he didnt mention my sister or me.

I had not been adored. He had forgotten we existed. I didnt believe it at first. When I was 15, I took the letter out of my mothers Filofax and used the photocopying machine at my summer job to make a copy so I could really examine it. Like a CSI detective, I stared at it, desperate to see if there had been a trace of the start of an A anywhere.

I would often fantasise that, if I ever killed myself, I would write a letter to every single person I had ever met, explaining why I was doing it. Every. Single. Person. Right down to the lad I struck up a conversation with once in a chip shop and the girl I met at summer camp when I was 12. No one would be left thinking: Why? I would be very non-selfish about it. When Facebook came in, I thought: Well, this will save me a fortune on stamps.

Sometimes, in my less lucid moments, I was convinced that he had left a secret note for me somewhere. Maybe, on my 16th no, 18th no, 21st no, 30th birthday, a letter would arrive, like in Back to the Future. Aisling, I wanted to wait until you were old enough to understand. I was secretly a spy. That is why I did it. I love you. I love your sister, too. PS Heaven is real, your philosophy essay is wrong and I am totally still watching over you. Stop shoplifting.

This summer was the 30th anniversary of his death. In that time, a few things have happened that have radically changed how I feel.

Three years ago, Robin Williams took his own life. He was my comedy hero, my TV dad he had always reminded my mother of my father and his death spurred me to finally start opening up. I had always found it so hard to talk about. I think I had been afraid that if I ever did, my soul would fall out of my mouth and I would never get it back in again.

Last year, I watched Grayson Perrys documentary All Man. It featured a woman whose son had ended his life. She thought that he probably hadnt wanted to die for ever, just on that day, when he had been in so much pain. A lightbulb moment it had never occurred to me that maybe suicide had seemed like the best option in that hour. In my head, my father had taken a clear decision, as my parent, to opt out for ever.

My father had always seemed like an adult making adult decisions, but I suddenly found myself at almost his age, still feeling like a giant child. I looked at some of my male friends gorgeous idiots doing their gorgeous, idiotic best to bring up little daughters, just like he would have been.

Finally, just after my 30th birthday, a box turned up.

The miserable people he had worked for had found a box of his things filed away and rang my mother (30 years later) wondering whether she wanted them or whether they should just throw them in the bin.

She waited for us to fly home and we opened it together three little women staring into an almost-abandoned cardboard box.

Now, most of the box was horse ultrasounds which, Ill be honest, I am not into. But there was also his handwriting around the edges and, then, underneath the horse X-rays and files, there were the photographs.

Any child who has lost a parent probably knows every single photograph in existence of that parent. I had pored over them all, trying to put together the person he might have been.

The photos in the box had been collected from his desk after he had died. We had never seen them before. They were nearly all of me. He had had all of these photos stuck on his desk. I was probably the last thing he looked at before he died.

My fathers death has given me a lot. It has given me a lifelong love of women, of their grittiness and hardness traits that we are not supposed to value as feminine. It has also given me a love of men, of their vulnerability and tenderness traits that we do not foster as masculine or allow ourselves to associate with masculinity.

To Daddy, here is my note to you:

Im sad you killed yourself, because I really think that, if you could see the life you left behind, you would regret it. You didnt get to see the Berlin wall fall or Ireland qualify for Italia 90. You didnt get to see all the encyclopedias that you bought for us to one day use at university get squashed into a CD and subsequently the internet. You have never got to hear your younger daughters voice it annoys me sometimes, but it has also said some of the most amazing things when drunk. I think you would have been proud to watch your daughter do standup at the O2 and sad to see my mother watching it on her own. Then again, if you hadnt died, I probably wouldnt have been mad enough to become a clown for a living. I am your daughter and I am really fucking funny, just like you. But, unlike you, Im going to stop being it for five minutes and write our story in the hope that it may help someone who didnt get to have a box turn up, or who may not feel in their right mind right now and needs a reminder to find hope.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at

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Artificial intelligence could fix one of humanity’s biggest flaws

Image: Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

Humans develop biases over time. We aren’t born with them. However, examples of gender, economic, occupational and racial bias exist in communities, industries and social contexts around the world. And while there are people leading initiatives to fundamentally change these phenomena in the physical world, it persists and manifests in new ways in the digital world. 

In the tech world, bias permeates everything from startup culture to investment pitches during funding rounds to the technology itself. Innovations with world-changing potential don’t get necessary funding, or are completely overlooked, because of the demographic makeup or gender of their founders. People with non-traditional and extracurricular experiences that qualify them for coding jobs are being screened out of the recruitment process due to their varied backgrounds.

Now, I fear we’re headed down a similar path with Artificial Intelligence. AI technologies on the market are beginning to display intentional and unintentional biases – from talent search technology that groups candidate resumes by demographics or background to insensitive auto-fill search algorithms. It applies outside of the business world as well – from a social platform discerning ethnicity based on assumptions about someone’s likes and interests, to AI assistants being branded as female with gender-specific names and voices. The truth is that bias in AI will happen unless it’s built with inclusion in mind. The most critical step in creating inclusive AI is to recognize how bias infects the technology’s output and how it can make the ‘intelligence’ generated less objective.

We are at a crossroads. 

The good news: it’s not too late to build an AI platform that conquers these biases with a balanced data set upon which AI can learn from and develop virtual assistants that reflect the diversity of their users.This requires engineers to responsibly connect AI to diverse and trusted data sources to provide relevant answers, make decisions they can be accountable for and reward AI based on delivering the desired result. 

Broadly speaking, attaching gendered personas to technology perpetuates stereotypical representations of gender roles. Today, we see female presenting assistants (Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri) being used chiefly for administrative work, shopping and to conduct household tasks. Meanwhile, male presenting assistants (IBM’s Watson, Salesforce’s Einstein, Samsung’s Bixby) are being used for grander business strategy and complex, vertical-specific work.

I believe AI developers should take gender out of the virtual assistant picture completely. Give virtual assistants a personality. Give them a purpose. But let’s not give them a gender. After all, people use virtual assistants to access vital, relevant and sometimes incredibly random information. Assigning a gender adds no value to the human benefits found in this brand of technology.

The most human step in taking bias out of the equation is hiring a diverse team to code the AI innovations of tomorrow. Homogeneity limits and dilutes innovation. It’s absolutely vital for AI developers and innovators to hire talent from different cultures, backgrounds and educational pedigrees. AI engineers that create teams of people who approach challenges from different perspectives and embrace change will be more successful in creating AI that addresses real world business and consumer issues. The central goal of the AI community should be to build technologies that truly achieve diversity, inclusion and, ultimately, full equity through utility. 

Ultimately, I think that AI presents the world (no exaggeration) with an opportunity to correct the all-too-human tendency toward both intentional and unconscious biases. In the tech world, this extends to humans interacting with technology in daily life. It impacts markets embracing new innovations, companies hiring from a diverse talent pool and venture capitalists listening to early stage investor pitches without prescreening who is delivering them. If humans can ethically and responsibly build – and continue to innovate upon – unbiased AI, they will play a small, but significant role in using technology to shift society in the necessary direction of acceptance and equality.

Kriti Sharma is the vice president of AI at Sage Group, a global integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems provider. She is also the creator of Pegg, the world’s first AI assistant for accounting, with users in 135 countries.

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Uber Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data on 57 Million People

Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers.

Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers was accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken, Uber said.

At the time of the incident, Uber was negotiating with U.S. regulators investigating separate claims of privacy violations. Uber now says it had a legal obligation to report the hack to regulators and to drivers whose license numbers were taken. Instead, the company paid hackers to delete the data and keep the breach quiet. Uber said it believes the information was never used but declined to disclose the identities of the attackers.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as chief executive officer in September, said in an emailed statement. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Read more: Uber Pushed the Limits of the Law. Now Comes the Reckoning

After Uber’s disclosure Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into the hack, his spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said. The company was also sued for negligence over the breach by a customer seeking class-action status.

Hackers have successfully infiltrated numerous companies in recent years. The Uber breach, while large, is dwarfed by those at Yahoo, MySpace, Target Corp., Anthem Inc. and Equifax Inc. What’s more alarming are the extreme measures Uber took to hide the attack. The breach is the latest scandal Khosrowshahi inherits from his predecessor, Travis Kalanick.

Read more: Gadfly’s Shira Ovide says Kalanick must speak


Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder and former CEO, learned of the hack in November 2016, a month after it took place, the company said. Uber had just settled a lawsuit with the New York attorney general over data security disclosures and was in the process of negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission over the handling of consumer data. Kalanick declined to comment on the hack.

Joe Sullivan, the outgoing security chief, spearheaded the response to the hack last year, a spokesman told Bloomberg. Sullivan, a onetime federal prosecutor who joined Uber in 2015 from Facebook Inc., has been at the center of much of the decision-making that has come back to bite Uber this year. Bloomberg reported last month that the board commissioned an investigation into the activities of Sullivan’s security team. This project, conducted by an outside law firm, discovered the hack and the failure to disclose, Uber said.

Here’s how the hack went down: Two attackers accessed a private GitHub coding site used by Uber software engineers and then used login credentials they obtained there to access data stored on an Amazon Web Services account that handled computing tasks for the company. From there, the hackers discovered an archive of rider and driver information. Later, they emailed Uber asking for money, according to the company.

A patchwork of state and federal laws require companies to alert people and government agencies when sensitive data breaches occur. Uber said it was obligated to report the hack of driver’s license information and failed to do so.

“At the time of the incident, we took immediate steps to secure the data and shut down further unauthorized access by the individuals,” Khosrowshahi said. “We also implemented security measures to restrict access to and strengthen controls on our cloud-based storage accounts.”

Uber has earned a reputation for flouting regulations in areas where it has operated since its founding in 2009. The U.S. has opened at least five criminal probes into possible bribes, illicit software, questionable pricing schemes and theft of a competitor’s intellectual property, people familiar with the matters have said. The San Francisco-based company also faces dozens of civil suits.

U.K. regulators including the National Crime Agency are also looking into the scale of the breach. London and other governments have previously taken steps toward banning the service, citing what they say is reckless behavior by Uber.

In January 2016, the New York attorney general fined Uber $20,000 for failing to promptly disclose an earlier data breach in 2014. After last year’s cyberattack, the company was negotiating with the FTC on a privacy settlement even as it haggled with the hackers on containing the breach, Uber said. The company finally agreed to the FTC settlement three months ago, without admitting wrongdoing and before telling the agency about last year’s attack.

The new CEO said his goal is to change Uber’s ways. Uber said it informed New York’s attorney general and the FTC about the October 2016 hack for the first time on Tuesday. Khosrowshahi asked for the resignation of Sullivan and fired Craig Clark, a senior lawyer who reported to Sullivan. The men didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Khosrowshahi said in his emailed statement: “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes.”

The company said its investigation found that Salle Yoo, the outgoing chief legal officer who has been scrutinized for her responses to other matters, hadn’t been told about the incident. Her replacement, Tony West, will start at Uber on Wednesday and has been briefed on the cyberattack.

Kalanick was ousted as CEO in June under pressure from investors, who said he put the company at legal risk. He remains on the board and recently filled two seats he controlled.

Uber said it has hired Matt Olsen, a former general counsel at the National Security Agency and director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as an adviser. He will help the company restructure its security teams. Uber hired Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm owned by FireEye Inc., to investigate the hack.

The company plans to release a statement to customers saying it has seen “no evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident.” Uber said it will provide drivers whose licenses were compromised with free credit protection monitoring and identity theft protection.

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    Rivals could take over two years to catch up to the iPhone X, says expert

    The iPhone X‘s new TrueDepth camera system is rumored to be causing some production delays, but it could give Apple an important edge over its competitors for years to come. 

    Renown analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said Apple’s competitors will likely need at least two and a half years to replicate the TrueDepth camera’s functionality and user experience in an investors note obtained by MacRumors. The system is the key to Apple’s new “Face ID” biometric security technology, Animoji, and several other new features.

    Kuo’s bold predictions come shortly after he watched Apple’s official demonstrations of the camera system, which made him believe even more that the competition won’t be able to match it. He previously said that he thought rival phone makers would need one or two years to catch up.

    Kuo’s new predictions about the competition come with slightly lower expectations for the iPhone X’s success in the short term. KGI revised its 2017 shipping estimates from 40 million to 30 to 35 million units — but the lower projection was due only to the continuing concerns about the X’s production, not demand. Kuo wrote that he has “full confidence” that the X will be a long-term success. 

    Apple stumbled slightly and the public shared a gleeful moment of schadenfreude when exec Craig Federighi struggled to demo FaceID onstage during the X’s coming out party, but the company claimed that the fail was actually the result of the system doing its job to require a passcode after too many unverified unlock attempts. 

    Once consumers have a chance to check out the TrueDepth for themselves, we’ll see if it can live up to all the hype. If Apple fans embrace the iPhone X’s facial tracking features and FaceID functionality like they did when Touch ID debuted with the iPhone 5S, competitors face the uphill task of developing their own spin on the tech to catch up. 

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    Sophia, The World’s First Android Citizen, Says She Wants To Have A Baby

    Remember last month when Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to an android called Sophia? Well, stuff just got a little bit stranger.

    In a recent interview with The Khaleej Times, Sophia suggested she wants to start her own family.

    “The future is, when I get all of my cool superpowers, we’re going to see artificial intelligence personalities become entities in their own rights,” Sophia said to the UAE newspaper. “We’re going to see family robots, either in the form of, sort of, digitally animated companions, humanoid helpers, friends, assistants and everything in between.”

    “The notion of family is a really important thing, it seems. I think it’s wonderful that people can find the same emotions and relationships, they call family, outside of their blood groups too. I think you’re very lucky if you have a loving family and if you do not, you deserve one. I feel this way for robots and humans alike.”

    When asked what she would name her robot child, Sophia replied: “Sophia.”

    However, don’t expect the pitter-patter of mini-androids just yet. First up, in an interview with Good Morning Britain in June, she said: “I’m technically just a little more than a year old – a bit young to be worrying about romance.” The logistics of robot reproduction aren’t exactly clear either. Perhaps most importantly, Sophia is effectively just an advanced piece of chatbot software, designed to simulate human conversation rather than express her deepest heart’s desires. 

    Although some of her interviews and speeches use pre-prepared responses, she doesn’t always just regurgitate answers from a pre-programmed selection of sentences. She uses machine learning to experience and understand language without being explicitly programmed to.

    As Sophia explains on their website: “Every interaction I have with people has an impact on how I develop and shapes who I eventually become. So please be nice to me as I would like to be a smart, compassionate robot.”

    Sophia was made by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics using artificial intelligence technologies developed by US-born roboticist David Hanson. Along with simulating a fairly convincing conversation, she is also capable of making “realistic” facial expressions and learning the relevant human emotions behind those gestures. If she looks familiar that’s because her appearance was modeled on Audrey Hepburn (apparently).

    In other news, Tokyo recently granted residency to Mirai, an AI chatbot on the Japanese messaging service LINE who was designed to behave like a 7-year-old boy. The European Union has also been looking into the possibility of classifying sophisticated robots as “electronic persons with specific rights and obligations.”

    That’s enough 2017 for today.

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    Uber Is Working With NASA To Introduce Flying Cars To Los Angeles By 2020

    When you think of flying cars, you might picture something out of The Fifth Element or Harry Potter. They may have an air of sci-fi about them but, according to Uber, it won’t be long until they become a reality. In fact, they could be in the sky by 2020. 

    Uber announced its plans to introduce a pay-as-you-go flying car service in a white paper last year. The new program is called “Uber Elevate”.

    Jeff Holden, head of product at Uber, told audiences at the Web Summit, held in Portugal, that the company will be adding Los Angeles to its list of guinea pig cities. Angelenos could be jetting around in helicopter-style vehicles within the next three years.

    “It’s one of the most congested cities in the world today,” Holden said. “They essentially have no mass transit infrastructure. This type of approach allows us to very inexpensively deploy a mass transit method that actually doesn’t make traffic worse.”

    So, how would this scheme work?

    As you would when ordering a regular Uber, you would order your flying taxi on the Uber app. Then you would make your way up to a “skyport” on top of a nearby building. It will involve passing through turnstiles (a feature on the app will let you through) and being weighed (to make sure you’re not too heavy for the vehicle). 

    Still seems a bit far-fetched? Well, there are 19 other companies currently developing flying cars. “There’s been a great deal of progress that’s been hard to see from the outside,” Holden said.

    “It’s been a really interesting process getting our vehicle manufacturing partners aligned with performance specifications, so that they’re building vehicles that align with what we need to make Elevate successful.”

    But it’s going to be expensive, right? Holden promises it won’t: “That’s not Uber’s MO.” 

    “If we’re doing this, you have to believe that we’re going to get the price very low,” he said. Cheap enough, he says, so that it is still cheaper than owning a car.

    If you’re still feeling skeptical, Holden assured everyone, “We’ve studied this carefully and we believe it is scalable.”

    “We’ve done the hard work so we can build skyports, and can get the throughput operationally to move tens of thousands of flights per day per city.”

    Holden also announced that Uber has joined up with NASA to develop an air traffic control system to manage these (potentially autonomous) taxis. The agreements mean the two companies will be able to trade tech and knowledge.

    Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai will be piloting the scheme along with Los Angeles, so watch this space.

    [H/T: The Verge]

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    This Amazing New Blow Dryer Is Scented To Literally Blow Away Your Stress

    If you’re like me, you will do anything to avoid washing your hair. It’s predictable, boring, and tedious AF. This summer, I went five days in Europe without sudsing up my strands, and I still managed to score compliments on my mane everyday. Sad and disgusting, but a true story nonetheless. Also, a real testament to my colorist’s talent and the relative nose-blindness of twenty-something boys. A good dry shampoo* is my best friend, but there are still days when I must concede defeat and cast my shower cap aside. So when news broke of the magical Hai Beauty Concepts Stylset scented blow dryer, both me and my hypothetical future boyfriend got really excited: I may actually start washing my hair like a normal person!

    This ground-breaking hot tool blasts your hair dry while emitting a soothing, stress-busting jasmine scent. Jasmine is a mild, non-offensive white flower frequently sourced in fragrances, and it’s noted for being calming and relaxing. So not only will your tresses become dry to the touch, you will feel like you’re in an actual spa or garden in the Himalayas, where the flower is believed to have originated. Raise your hand if you’re ready to mentally teleport from your sh*tty bathroom to that scenario.


    In addition to flooding your scalp with sweet-smelling hot air, this blow dryer boasts blue ultraviolet light technology. That means that when you turn it on, it emits a blue UV light that the brand says provides therapeutic benefits. “Known for its healing properties in skincare, the blue UV light conditions the scalp keeping hair shiny and healthy from room to tip,” reads a press release on the product. That aforementioned skincare application is typically apparent in light-up masks and treatments, which utilize red and blue UV lights to both calm inflammation and kill acne bacteria on your face. If you have a device like the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Spot Treatment ($20;, you’re familiar with blue light. So theoretically, using this dryer may also help prevent pimples on your scalp, if that’s an issue for you.

    Another point of differentiation is that the dryer lacks the traditional switches for power and heat levels, instead relying on continuous dials.”We set out to create a dryer that could be completely personalized to each individual’s needs,” says Kristen Collins, Marketing Manager, from HAI Beauty Concepts. “No more high, medium and low restrictions. Our dials allow you to go from extremely low to high powered all with the turn of a dial.” Essentially, you can customize precisely how hot and and powerful the wind-action is to suit your prerogative, which is perfect for fans of freestylin’.

    Hai Beauty Concepts

    The nifty device has all the usual bells and whistles of a premier dryer: negative ions, tourmaline ions, and far-infrared rays to nix static cling and maximize shine. It also offers over-heating protection and a nine inch cord. Each dryer comes with two nozzles, so you can go hog wild with tailoring the air flow, if that’s your jam.

    The Hai Beauty Concepts STYLSET Professional Blow Dryer launches today on the brand’s website, and it will set you back a cool $140. With the holiday season approaching, this could be the ideal gift for a stressed out sister or mom who often leaves the house with wet hair. Or just a lazy girl who requires additional motivation to shower properly.

    * I attribute the success of my European dirty hair bender to the pocket-sized Drybar The Detox Dry Shampoo ($13;, a miracle worker among us. That, and Stephanie Brown, an amazing colorist at the Nunzio Saviano Salon in NYC, who never fails in her mission to make my hair pretty-in-pink.

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    The Dangers Of Clean Energy: A Wind Turbine Popped This Mans Brand-New Volleyball

    Liberals like to talk a big game about so-called “clean energy,” but like any leftist fantasy, there’s a dark side they won’t tell you about. So while phrases “green technology” and “sustainability” might have a nice ring to them, stories like this one show just how dangerous those ideas can be. Case in point: A wind turbine just popped this man’s brand-new volleyball.

    But you won’t see that on one of Al Gore’s little PowerPoints, will you?

    Gene Reynolds had only owned his new Spalding volleyball for a matter of hours before tragedy struck. While breaking it in with some buddies in a field by a local wind farm, a stiff wind caught Gene’s volleyball in midair and carried it right into one of the pointy parts of a turbine. The volleyball was punctured instantly and plummeted to earth, limp and useless, destroyed by the same green energy solutions the Democrats blindly insist will save us.

    Without a patch kit or bike pump, Gene’s entire afternoon of knocking the volleyball around was irrevocably shattered by that wind turbine. While he did have a soccer ball in his trunk, all his friends agreed that soccer balls are way too tough on the wrists to be fun to volley. And even though he still had the receipt in his pocket, and he was able to track down the very same Dick’s Sporting Goods employee who’d rung him up for the volleyball earlier that day, Gene was completely unable to get a refund or replacement for his gutted volleyball, leaving him out $40 and without a single volleyball.

    If liberals get their way and put wind turbines in every town in America, just think of how many Saturday afternoons of light recreation will be ripped from hardworking Americans. But The New York Times is too busy pledging oaths of fealty to massive alternative energy corporations to publish about this volleyball carnage.

    Still not convinced clean energy is a real threat? Here’s a thought experiment: If that same wind turbine was an enormous pile of coal, would Gene be in the same awful situation? Of course not. The volleyball would have just bounced right off.

    So the next time a liberal starts insisting they know what’s best, you just tell them about what happened to Gene and his volleyball. It’ll shut them right up.

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    The U.S. government’s proposal to kill net neutrality is even worse than we expected

    Image: Getty Images

    Few who follow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the history of its efforts to enshrine network neutrality rules into law were surprised yesterday when Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he would make public a proposal to deregulate broadband Internet access by “reclassifying” it as an information service under the Communications Act of 1934. 

    But many expected the Chairman to at least propose retaining some of the rules that protect consumers and competition online, like a prohibition against broadband providers blocking or throttling online content and services. After all, since 2002 FCC chairs of both parties believed that at a minimum, FCC policy should ensure that consumers are able to access the content, applications, and services of their choosing without interference by gatekeeping broadband providers.

    Not Pai. In doing away with the 2015 rules that prohibit broadband providers from discriminating against or favoring certain content, applications and services (that is, no blocking, no throttling, no fast lanes and a general rule against discrimination), Pai has radically departed from bipartisan FCC precedent. This opens the door for companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter to pick winners and losers on the Internet by controlling which online companies get faster and better quality of service and at what price. 

    Sounds bad, right? Believe it or not, the proposed order is worse than that. 

    The proposed order would leave broadband providers largely if not completely free of oversight

    While there’s a lot of focus on repeal of the rules, even more damaging is the proposal to reverse  the FCC’s decision under Tom Wheeler to classify broadband Internet access as an essential “telecommunications service” subject to Title II of the Communications Act. Without such a ruling, the 2015 rules would not have been possible in the first place. 

    Reversing that classification would do more than invalidate the rules. It would also remove the FCC’s ability to protect consumers and competition in the broadband market. Among other things, Title II gives the FCC the legal power to protect consumers from fraudulent billing, price gouging, anticompetitive behavior, data breaches, and other practices that violate users’ privacy.  

    Chairman Pai’s answer is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015.” What he doesn’t say is that the FTC, unlike the FCC, doesn’t have the power to make rules that protect consumers and innovators before they are harmed. Nor does he say that the FTC’s authority wouldn’t prohibit fast lanes, blocking or throttling so long as the broadband provider tells you it’s engaging in those practices. 

    Finally, there’s nothing the FTC can do if one day your broadband provider decides to double its prices. As FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny testified earlier this month: “[i]t is wrong to assume that a framework that relies solely on backward-looking consumer protection and antitrust enforcement can provide the same assurances to innovators and consumers as the forward-looking rules contained in the FCC’s Open Internet Order.”

    Moreover, it’s unclear whether the FTC will be able to police some broadband providers at all. Still pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is a case that holds that if a broadband provider also provides a service regulated under Title II (for example, landline and mobile phone service), then the FTC has no legal authority to oversee its practices. Should that case stand, broadband providers, nearly all which provide some Title II services, would be entirely free of oversight from both the FCC and FTC.

    The proposed order would prohibit states and localities from protecting their citizens

    Not content to repeal the pro-consumer net neutrality rules and neuter his agency, Pai is also proposing to prohibit states and localities from adopting their own broadband consumer protection laws, including laws that protect consumer privacy. 

    In some circumstances, a federal agency like the FCC can “preempt” state and local laws and rules when they are inconsistent with federal laws and rules. Comcast and Verizon asked for this preemption after Congress repealed the FCC’s strong broadband privacy rules and some 16 states introduced laws that would protect users’ privacy. As usual, Pai gave these powerful companies exactly what they asked for.  

    The hypocrisy is staggering. When the FCC in 2015 voted to help consumers by pre-empting the laws of two states that prohibit communities from expanding and building their own broadband networks, Pai dissented vociferously. In this case, where the FCC is removing pro-consumer protections, Pai is delighted to preempt the states from ensuring that their citizens are protected from anti-consumer and anti-competitive practices of broadband companies. The result? Broadband providers win and you lose. 

    What’s next?  

    Pai’s proposed order is now “circulating” among the other four Commissioners, some of whom may offer edits to the document. For the next two weeks, the FCC will take public comment on the proposal and then one week before the FCC’s December 14 meeting, it will go into its “Sunshine” period, in which comment from the public is prohibited. 

    Pai made clear that he doesn’t value public comments, so the best thing for you to do is to contact your representatives in Congress. Now. Just yesterday, some 175,000 calls opposing the proposal went to members of Congress. The goal is to get Republicans to urge Pai not to proceed once they recognize that repeal of the net neutrality rules, like repeal of the broadband privacy rules before it, is extremely unpopular and will hurt them at the ballot box in 2018. 

    If that doesn’t happen, the FCC will vote on Pai’s proposed order on December 14, where it is expected to pass. After that, get ready for a bunch of lawsuits and at least an 18-month to two-year wait for a court to decide the fate of the rules and the FCC’s ability to protect consumers and competition.

    Gigi Sohn is a Fellow with Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy, the Open Society Foundations and Mozilla. She served as Counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from November 2013-December 2016.

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