TIME legal

At Least 20 Years in Prison Awaits Silk Road Founder

This Feb 4, 2015, file courtroom sketch, shows defendant Ross William Ulbricht as the deputy recites the word “guilty” multiple times during Ubricht’s trial in New York.
Elizabeth Williams—AP This Feb 4, 2015 courtroom sketch shows defendant Ross William Ulbricht as the deputy recites the word “guilty” multiple times during Ubricht'’s trial in New York.

Ross William Ulbricht regrets his "very naive and costly idea"

(NEW YORK) — Prosecutors are asking a Manhattan judge to sentence a San Francisco man who created the online drug-peddling site Silk Road to decades in prison, while the defendant is asking to be freed soon enough to show he’s a changed man.

Ross William Ulbricht, 31, is set to be sentenced Friday following his February conviction in federal court.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, Ulbricht said he regrets what he calls a “very naive and costly idea.”

He said he ruined his life and destroyed his future by what he now calls his “terrible mistake,” and he promised to no longer be the “rebellious risk taker” he was if he is given less than the life sentence recommended by the Probation Department.

“Please leave a small light at the end of the tunnel, an excuse to stay healthy, an excuse to dream of better days ahead, and a chance to redeem myself in the free world before I meet my maker,” he wrote.

Prosecutors, though, asked for a sentence substantially longer than the 20-year mandatory minimum, saying Ulbricht “developed a blueprint for a new way to use the Internet to undermine the law and facilitate criminal transactions” before he was nabbed in a San Francisco library in 2013, two years after launching Silk Road.

He was convicted of seven drug and conspiracy counts by a jury that deliberated only three hours.

Prosecutors said Ulbricht collected over $18 million in bitcoin commissions operating a website with thousands of listings under categories like “Cannabis,” ”Psychedelics” and “Stimulants.” They said he brokered more than 1 million drug deals worth $213 million.

To support a lengthy sentence, prosecutors said in a legal brief that Ulbricht’s massive narcotics-trafficking enterprise had resulted in at least six drug-related deaths, including a 27-year-old Microsoft employee and a 16-year-old boy in Perth, Australia. They also said he solicited multiple murders for hire in attempts to eliminate perceived threats, though authorities found no evidence anyone was killed.

“The site enabled thousands of drug dealers to expand their markets from the sidewalk to cyberspace, and thereby reach countless customers whom they never could have found on the street. The consequence was to vastly expand access to illegal drugs,” prosecutors said.

TIME Soccer

Women’s Teams Now Feature in Soccer Game FIFA 16 but in Real Life Have Second-Class Status

What happens on screen is a far cry from real life

For the first time, EA Sports will feature women soccer players in its hugely popular FIFA video-game series.

FIFA 16, which launches in September, includes 12 of the top women’s international teams — USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Sweden.

The video game has only featured men’s teams since it was first released in 1993.

However, as welcome as EA Sports’ announcement is, Mashable points out that while the women’s teams are “in the game” on screen, in real life they fall far behind the men’s teams in the way they are treated by soccer’s governing body.

In the upcoming Women’s World Cup, beginning June 6 in Canada, the women’s teams will have to play on artificial turf fields, instead of actual grass.

No men’s World Cup has ever been played on synthetic surfaces and many of the women’s teams feel it is gender discrimination. Playing on the fake turf puts them at a higher risk of injury.

A group of the sport’s top female players filed legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association last year but had to end their challenge in January because FIFA stalled for so long that it was too late to potentially change the pitches in time for the championship.

“This being the pinnacle of our sport, we feel like we should be treated just like the men,” U.S. forward Abby Wambach told the New York Times last year.

EA Sports’ announcement comes as FIFA finds itself snared in a huge corruption scandal that has seen 14 senior officials arrested on charges of bribery, fraud, and money laundering.

TIME Transportation

Setback for Uber as South Korea Bans Private Taxis

The Uber Technologies Inc. application and logo are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s and iPad Air in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg via Getty Images The Uber Technologies Inc. application and logo are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s and iPad Air in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

It's the first country to introduce a nationwide prohibition

In a largely symbolic move that appears to be aimed directly at Uber’s cheap UberX service, South Korea passed legislation on Friday banning unlicensed drivers from providing taxi services — becoming the first country to institute a nationwide prohibition of the practice.

According to Reuters, the bill is a blanket ban on private taxi services but lawmakers who pushed the bill did so citing UberX, a service that matches commuters with individuals using their personal cars as a taxi.

Uber already pulled UberX out of Seoul in March because of backlash from the taxi industry and local authorities. But the company still maintains a presence via UberTaxi (matching passengers with licensed drivers) and UberBLACK (which can be used by the disabled, elderly and foreigners).

[Reuters]

TIME Google

Google Is Testing Hands-free Payments With McDonald’s and Papa Johns

The tech giant is testing an app that will let you pay at the store without pulling out your wallet or phone

Google is testing a futuristic way for shoppers to pay for what they buy without having to take out their wallet — or even their phones.

The technology, known as hands-free payments, is supposed to make paying in stores that much easier. All a customer has to do is download an app onto their phone. When checking out at a store, all they have to do is stand in front of the cash register and say their name to the cashier. A blue tooth sensor automatically detects whether they have the app and then bills them.

Google revealed the test Thursday at its annual developers conference in San Francisco. Fast food giant McDonald’s and pizza chain Papa John’s have partnered with Google to experiment with the technology in the Bay Area.

Details about Google’s payment system are still fuzzy. The company emphasized that it is an experiment. It may rely on Bluetooth technology to sense that your mobile phone is nearby. Shoppers who make a purchase receive a notification on their phone about being billed.

The technology is just one of many ideas involving mobile payments, a particularly hot space in the tech industry. A number of companies like Apple are experimenting with different ways for consumers to pay using their phones under the theory that paying digitally is more convenient than using cash or credit cards.

Google isn’t the first company to tackle hands-free payments. Payments company Square introduced hands-free payments in 2011, but has since retired its consumer-facing app that included the feature. In 2013, PayPal premiered a similar technology using Beacon, a Bluetooth device retailers placed in their stores.

In addition to discussing hands-free payments, Google unveiled a new mobile payments wallet and platform on Thursday called Android Pay.

TIME Amazon

You May Soon Be Able to Buy Amazon-Branded Milk, Cereal and Baby Food

Inside The UPS Worldport Facility Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A package shipped from Amazon.com moves down a conveyor belt during the afternoon sort at the United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) Worldport facility in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

The e-commerce leader is planning to add food to its fledgling line up of house labels, a move that seeks to capitalize on customers' growing acceptance of store brands and its grocery delivery service.

Amazon.com is getting ready to take its fight with the likes of Costco Wholesale, Target and Walmart deeper into the grocery aisles.

The online retailer is planning to expand its private label lineup into groceries like milk, cereal, and baby food, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The newspaper also reported that Amazon filed for trademark protection in early May for more than two dozen categories under its existing Elements brand including coffee, soup, pasta as well as household products like razor blades and cleaning products.

Amazon has approached some private-label food manufacturers to partner including TreeHouse Foods, a major player, according to the Journal’s report. Amazon did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment.

The foray into private-label grocery comes as food is becoming ever-bigger business for major retailers. Groceries can bring higher profit margins despite the lower retail prices some retailers charge because the companies save on the marketing costs.

Such in-house brands are also finding more acceptance with customers, many of whom are increasingly looking for bargains and are more open to buying store brands. A case in point is Costco’s Kirkland brand, which generates $15 billion in sales from coffee, chicken breasts, and cleaning products.

Amazon’s Elements portfolio began last year with diapers, which it has since dropped, and baby wipes that are sold exclusively to members of its Prime subscription service. Among other things, Prime offers unlimited same-day delivery in certain markets and two-day shipping — all for a $99 annual fee.

This would be Amazon’s first try at selling its own line of food, a far more complex business than some of its other private label products because of food safety issues. And Amazon would be going up against experienced competitors that have plans to improve their own brands. Target’s Archer Farms, for one, will undergo an overhaul in the next year.

Still, the move makes sense for Amazon as it looks to capitalize on and built out its Fresh grocery delivery.

TIME technology

Steve Wozniak Is Getting a Wax Figure at Madame Tussauds

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, speaks onstage during the National Geographic Channel's 'American Genius' panel at the 2015 Winter Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa on Jan. 7, 2015 in Pasadena, California.
Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, speaks onstage during the National Geographic Channel's 'American Genius' panel at the 2015 Winter Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa on Jan. 7, 2015 in Pasadena, California.

And it'll be right next to Steve Jobs'

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is getting immortalized in wax. Madame Tussauds in San Francisco announced this week the inventor will be the next techie to get the wax treatment, joining the likes of Apple’s Steve Jobs and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

In a statement, Wozniak said he is “incredibly excited” to be added to the San Francisco location and equally thrilled that he’ll be placed next to his former partner.

“I remember visiting the London Museum as a kid,” Wozniak said. “I can’t wait to see my figure next to Jobs—it’ll be just like old times.”

According to Madame Tussauds, now the fun part begins. Wozniak will have to sit for 2 to 3 hours and have 250 measurements taken to ensure his figure’s accuracy. It takes about three to four months to complete the process, after which Wozniak will appear at his sculpture’s release for a side-by-side comparison.

TIME Google

The 4 Biggest Things Google Announced Today

Android lovers, this is your Christmas

At its annual I/O developers conference Thursday, talk unsurprisingly centered on the company’s Android mobile operating system.

While the company didn’t have any super-surprising reveals, Google’s product roadmap indicates that Android is only going to become more versatile as it enters sectors such as commerce and the smart home. Google is also become more skilled at tying together its disparate services into a single, pleasing user experience, as evinced by the expanded focus on Google Now.

Here’s a quick roundup of the four biggest new announcements Google made Thursday:

Google Now gets even smarter

Google’s sophisticated digital assistant Google Now already offers up curated news, trip reminders, suggested travel routes and other info to make daily life easier. Now the company is expanding its functionality across multiple apps with Now on Tap. When using apps such as music players and email clients, users can simply press the home button or ask Google a question verbally to get context-sensitive answers based on what’s on screen (if your significant other texts you to ask you to pick up laundry, for example, Now on Tap will suggest adding a reminder to your calendar). The new features could give Now a leg up against Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Android Pay looks a whole lot like Apple Pay

After years of tepid response to Google Wallet, the company is taking another shot at mobile payments with Android Pay. The new platform, available later this year in the U.S., will let users load their credit card information onto their phones and then use their phones to pay at physical retailers. The functionality is very similar to Apple Pay, which quickly managed to make a bigger splash than Google Wallet ever did. Android Pay will be available at 700,000 retail stores, including Whole Foods, Macy’s and Walgreens.

A new photo app with unlimited storage

Photo storage and organization was one of the best features of Google+. Now Google is bringing that strength to all its users with a new standalone app, Google Photos. Users of the app, available on Android, iOS and the web, will have unlimited photo and video storage. The revamped service also boasts some impressive search features. Users can search by location, objects in the photo (boats, for instance) or even by face. The updated apps rolled out on Thursday.

A new OS for the Internet of Things

Given that Google shelled out billions for smart thermostat company Nest, it’s no surprise that the company is making a power play to control the living room. The company announced Project Brillo, an Android-powered operating system for connected devices, as well as Weave, a common language to let connected Brillo devices communicate. Brillo will support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, giving developers multiple ways to let users connect.

TIME Google

Google Is Bringing Virtual Reality to the Classroom

Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014. Google Inc. executives are taking the stage this week to talk about a plethora of new technologies, including automobiles, home automation, digital TV, Web-connected devices and a new version of Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Sundar Pichai
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014.

Super-cheap VR has found a home

In 2014, Google made a virtual reality viewer out of cardboard. In 2015, it’s turning it into a teaching tool for school classrooms.

The Google Cardboard headset, which is mostly made out of cardboard and works with Android phones and special apps, turned out to be a hit beyond just a gimmick at the company’s developer conference last year. Clay Bavor, Google vice president of product management said on-stage at this year’s Google I/O conference Thursday that it’s shipped more than 1 million cardboard headsets in the past year. There are also hundreds of cardboard-compatible apps in Google’s app store.

But now, Google is bringing is cheap and easy set to the classroom, helping teachers take their students on virtual field trips with Cardboard units, mobile devices, and software.

Dubbed “Expeditions,” Google’s program is partnering with organizations such as the Planetary Society and the American Museum of Natural History for content. Through Expeditions, teachers will receive a kit for their classrooms which will include cardboard viewers for each student, Android phones, a tablet, and pre-installed software that will keep all the viewers synced together. All the teacher has to do is get the virtual field trip going on their device to send the whole class on a trip together.

Bavor also said Google is releasing a new version of its cardboard viewer, which will now support phones with 6-inch displays and all Android phone models (it previously only fit certain ones). It will also only require three steps to assemble instead of 12.

TIME Uber

Here’s Uber’s Plan for a New Sci-fi Headquarters

Photo courtesy of Uber

Fast-growing company will be moving into fancy new offices

Ride sharing service Uber is planning a fancy new headquarters to go with its recent stratospheric $50 billion valuation.

Futuristic buildings will be connected by glass walkways, according to designs recently released by the company.

The new headquarters, located in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, is expected to open by late 2017 or early 2018, according to Quartz. It will be comprised of a six-story building at 1515 Third St. as well as an 11-story building at 1455 Third St.

The buildings were designed by Shop Architects PC, a New York City firm. The structures measure approximately 423,000 square feet, which the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year will triple Uber’s footprint in the city.

Business software giant Salesforce previously occupied the space.

It will be the eighth move for Uber, according to the Chronicle.

Here are a couple more images of the designs:

Uber headquarters
Photo courtesy of Uber
Uber headquarters 3
Photo courtesy of Uber

 

TIME Google

Finally, You Can Get Your Google Maps Directions Anytime

Google Maps Returns To Apple's iPhone
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

No wireless connection needed

You know those annoying moments when your phone goes offline and you can’t get directions to where you’re going? And it’s always at the least opportune moments?

Good news: That will soon be a thing of the past.

On Thursday, Google announced at its annual developers in San Francisco that turn-by-turn directions would soon be available — even without a data connection. All you have to do is save the route while you’re connected and the directions will be there when you need them.

Also, because GPS doesn’t need LTE coverage, it can still track where you are on your route and estimate the time remaining for your trip.

That will be especially game-changing in communities where fast, reliable wireless infrastructure is spotty. It’s one of many offline improvements Google announced at this year’s conference, including saving search results in Chrome and videos from YouTube.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com