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Uber drivers in Denmark could face fines for every ride they offered

The Danish Supreme Court has upheld large fines issued to several Uber drivers for operating without a taxi license, at a time when the ride-hailing giant was still running its non-licensed p2p driver UberPop service in the market. The decision could mean more than a thousand additional Uber drivers who sold rides in Denmark could also be faced with a big bill. The four drivers had appealed fines issues by the national court — of between DKK 40,000 (~$6,270) and DKK 486,500 (~$76,200) — but the Supreme Court judged the amounts to be appropriate. The level of fines is based on the number of Uber rides each driver carried out. In the case of the largest fine the unnamed individual had apparently run up 5,427 Uber rides. Uber drivers in Denmark have also faced demands for unpaid taxes this year, after Danish tax authorities found tax avoidance among almost all of them. Meanwhile Uber pulled out of Denmark early last year , blaming a new taxi law which includes requirements such as mandatory fare meters and seat sensors. Though it says it continues to engage with local authorities to lobby for the kind of tech-friendly reform which would enable it to return. When it left Denmark the company said it had more than 2,000 drivers in the market and 300,000 users. According to AP , today’s Supreme Court judgement paves the way for fines to be issued against a further 1,500 people who had also driven for Uber without a taxi license. A spokesman for the Copenhagen police told Reuters it would assess the verdict and decide how to proceed next week. At the end of 2016 Danish prosecutors sought to bring a test case against Uber’s European business, seeking to indict it on charges of assisting two drivers of breaking local taxi laws — likely contributing to Uber’s decision to shut up shop there. In November of the same year the Danish Supreme Court also ruled Uber to be an illegal taxi service, rather than a ride-sharing platform as the company’s lawyers had sought to argue.

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Uber drivers in Denmark could face fines for every ride they offered

The Danish Supreme Court has upheld large fines issued to several Uber drivers for operating without a taxi license, at a time when the ride-hailing giant was still running its non-licensed p2p driver UberPop service in the market. The decision could mean more than a thousand additional Uber drivers who sold rides in Denmark could also be faced with a big bill. The four drivers had appealed fines issues by the national court — of between DKK 40,000 (~$6,270) and DKK 486,500 (~$76,200) — but the Supreme Court judged the amounts to be appropriate. The level of fines is based on the number of Uber rides each driver carried out. In the case of the largest fine the unnamed individual had apparently run up 5,427 Uber rides. Uber drivers in Denmark have also faced demands for unpaid taxes this year, after Danish tax authorities found tax avoidance among almost all of them. Meanwhile Uber pulled out of Denmark early last year , blaming a new taxi law which includes requirements such as mandatory fare meters and seat sensors. Though it says it continues to engage with local authorities to lobby for the kind of tech-friendly reform which would enable it to return. When it left Denmark the company said it had more than 2,000 drivers in the market and 300,000 users. According to AP , today’s Supreme Court judgement paves the way for fines to be issued against a further 1,500 people who had also driven for Uber without a taxi license. A spokesman for the Copenhagen police told Reuters it would assess the verdict and decide how to proceed next week. At the end of 2016 Danish prosecutors sought to bring a test case against Uber’s European business, seeking to indict it on charges of assisting two drivers of breaking local taxi laws — likely contributing to Uber’s decision to shut up shop there. In November of the same year the Danish Supreme Court also ruled Uber to be an illegal taxi service, rather than a ride-sharing platform as the company’s lawyers had sought to argue. Since then Europe’s supreme court, the ECJ, has cemented that view of the business in the region, ruling at the end of last year that Uber is a transport company, not a platform — and locking the company into a new era of needing to work with local authorities to try to reform taxi laws, rather than just burning rubber over their rulebooks. Under its current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber is certainly trying to put founder Travis Kalanick’s legacy way of doing business behind it — dispensing apologies and emollient words. And seeking to enact a pivot to become a multi-modal transport platform — to be able to offer cities something other than just more traffic and congestion on already clogged and polluted roads

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The clock is ticking for e-cig companies to block underage users

The FDA is giving makers of e-cigarettes sixty days to come up with a more effective, forceful plan to combat underage use of the products. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb is yet again moving the goal posts for e-cig companies. He now considers underage use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) an epidemic, forcing the government to make a choice that we all knew was coming: save the smokers or save the kids? “I believe in the power of American ingenuity to solve a lot of problems, including this one,” said Gottlieb in a statement . “I’m deeply disturbed by the trends I’ve seen. I’m disturbed by an epidemic of nicotine use among teenagers. So, we’re at a crossroads today. It’s one where the opportunities from new innovations will be responsibly seized on right now, or perhaps lost forever.” E-cigarettes, like the Juul (which owns more than 70 percent of the market by revenue), offer a much less harmful alternative to cigarettes for folks who smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, according to the CDC , with 6 million deaths per year worldwide, and that number is expected to rise to 8 million by 2030. Public Health England says that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Addiction, which in this case is caused by nicotine, is always harmful, but not nearly as threatening as the harm caused by actual smoke from traditional cigarettes. On the spectrum of risk, e-cigarettes should seem like a huge win in the decades-long battle against smoking. But that was before teenagers started using e-cigarettes, including the Juul, at a surprisingly increasing rate . The FDA says more than 2 million middle and high school students were regular users of e-cigarettes last year

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Paystack, with ambitions to become the Stripe of Africa, raises $8M from Visa, Tencent… and Stripe itself

Africa has been one of the least-developed regions globally when it comes to technology and being on the less advanced side of the so-called digital divide. But with a huge population and a set of nations whose economies are rapidly changing, we are seeing a significant knock-on effect in tech. Today, one of the more interesting startups, in the area of financial services, is announcing some funding that underscores that trend. Paystack , a Stripe-like startup out of Lagos that provides online payment facilities to merchants and others by way of an API and a few lines of code, is announcing that it has raised $8 million in a Series A round of funding. The company is active today in Nigeria, where its payment API integrates with tens of thousands of businesses, and in two years it has grown to process 15 percent of all online payments; and the plan is to both continue to growing in its home country, as well as expand to more, starting with Ghana. I describe Paystack as “Stripe-like”, and in an interesting twist, the round is being led by none other than Stripe itself — a mark not just of how the latter (once a YC startup itself) is eyeing up like-minded global founders and businesses as it continues to grow, but also how Stripe understands the challenges of breaking into a region like Africa, and therefore sees an opportunity to work with and support those who are. “The Paystack founders are highly technical, fanatically customer oriented, and unrelentingly impatient,” says Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, in a statement. “We’re excited to back such people in one of the world’s fastest-growing regions.” “It takes a lot of local nuances to build for African businesses,” said Shola Akinlade, the CEO of Paystack who co-founded the company with Ezra Olubi (who is the CTO) and are pictured above. “Paystack seems to be the only one doing this.” In 2016, Paystack became the first startup from Nigeria to enter Y Combinator, and the incubator is doing some follow-on investing in this round. Other strategic investors in this Series A include Visa and the Chinese online giant Tencent, parent of WeChat and a plethora of other services. (Tencent also invested in Paystack’s previous round: the startup has raised $10 million to date.) Stripe scored a big win in financial services in the West when it developed a very quick and easy way of integrating payments into any app or website, taking what used to involve a lot of integration and negotiation and reducing it into a few lines of code. It came just at a time when apps were starting to take off, and people were coming around to feeling more comfortable about making financial transactions online, as long as they were easy to do. Paystack has followed a similar template, albeit much more localised. Nigeria is one of the biggest economies in Africa and the largest in the sub-Saharan region, but even so, it is only just getting the ball rolling on digitising commerce.

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Rental attacks mean that blockchains must evolve or die

Abraham Othman Contributor Abraham Othman is a visiting scholar in the Operations, Information and Decisions department of the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania). He is an advisor to a number of blockchain applications including Augur, Codex, and Decent. Blockchain technologies have a well-earned reputation for hacking and fraud, but the recent theft of more than twenty million dollars of second-tier cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Gold, Verge, and ZenCash was a fundamental attack on the core mechanisms that allow cryptocurrencies to function. The way that most blockchains (including Bitcoin and Ethereum) function now is called Proof-of-Work; miners must solve hard computational problems to add new blocks of transactions to the chain and the majority (i.e., 51%) of the computational power can determine what transactions appear in the public ledger. In May and June, these second-tier cryptocurrencies suffered from what is called a “51% attack” , where attackers rented more processing power than the honest participants of the network, enabling them to control the transaction register and engage in nefarious behavior. For instance, an attacker could steal from an exchange by sending a deposit of compromised cryptocurrency, cashing it out, and then striking the initial deposit from the public ledger. A new working paper from my friend and occasional collaborator Eric Budish , an economics professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business , argues that any blockchain with reasonably low transaction fees is fundamentally vulnerable to 51% attacks. The risk of these attacks was known, informally, from the earliest days of cryptocurrency, and to counter this risk exchanges do not immediately credit deposits. Instead, they wait for deposit transactions to “age” on the blockchain in an escrow period. The assumption is that it would be hard for an attacker to control more computational power than honest miners for the whole escrow period. Budish tests this assumption through a sophisticated simulation. He finds that, because it is easier for an attacker with majority compute capability to mine blocks than the honest network, escrow periods provide far less protection than has been thought previously.  Budish’s simulations suggest that increasing escrow periods 100-fold would generally increase the cost to an attacker by less than ten times. The most pointed criticism of Budish’s argument is that it does not match the observed facts of the blockchain ecosystem

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EV startups Alta, Energica, and Zero could reboot the motorcycle industry

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa . More posts by this contributor MallforAfrica and DHL launch MarketPlace Africa global e-commerce site Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 accepted into YC, raises $1.2 million Three e-mobility startups are accelerating into the U.S. motorcycle market. Italy’s  Energica  and California based  Alta Motors  and  Zero Motorcycles  have revved up promotion, distribution, and sales. You may see their machines zip by on American roads before the big two-wheel gas powered companies get EVs to showroom floors. These startups could reboot U.S. motorcycle sales while shifting the global motorcycle industry toward electric. The market Since the recession, America’s motorcycle sector has been in the doldrums. New bike sales have dropped roughly 50 percent since 2008—with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40.  Chart: MOTOSALES  Most of the market is now aging baby-boomers, whose  “Live to Ride”  days are winding down.

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Tiger Global reportedly pours more than $1B into SoftBank, saying its shares are “undervalued”

Tiger Global has poured more than $1 billion into SoftBank Group, according to the Financial Times . The newspaper reports that the firm told investors SoftBank’s shares are “meaningfully undervalued.” In response to a request for comment, SoftBank sent the same statement to TechCrunch as other media outlets: “We continue to believe the market significantly undervalues our stock and we welcome the support from a sophisticated institutional investor like Tiger Global.” Tiger Global and SoftBank share several investments in common, including Alibaba, Flipkart and Uber. According to a quarterly investor letter obtained by the Financial Times, Tiger Global wrote that “the combination of a world-class set of assets trading at a record discount to net asset value strikes us as an odd anomaly that is unlikely to exist forever.” It also said that “in our view, the opportunity to buy the shares cheaply exists today because SoftBank’s stock has not appreciated in nearly five years, even though the value of its Alibaba stake has increased by over $90 billion, more than SoftBank’s entire market capitalization.” The Financial Times reports that Tiger Global believes SoftBank can create an additional $73 billion of value before tax if its $100 billion Vision Fund returns 2.5 times its original investment over the next seven years. Other growth prospects it cited include the upcoming initial public offering of SoftBank Mobile , its Japanese telecoms unit, and the potential merger of Sprint, which SoftBank holds a majority stake in, and T-Mobile, pending regulatory approval.

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Best of the best iPhone accessories (July edition)

There's what feels like an infinite amount of iPhone accessories on the market. Some are good. Some are OK. Many are just awful. But a select few are amazing. Here are the iPhone accessories that I rely on daily. There's also a special offer here for Hardware 2.0 readers.

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