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Uber weighs next steps after report showed more than 3,000 sex assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

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A day after Uber revealed that more than 3,000 riders and drivers were sexually assaulted last year while using its U.S. service, attention is turning to what’s next for the ride-hailing giant and whether its plans to improve safety go far enough.

Uber’s report was hailed by victims’ rights organizations for taking a step that other companies have so far been unwilling to match. But it’s unclear whether the transparency will help rebuild trust or backfire by showing customers how deep Uber’s safety problems go.

READ MORE: Uber reports more than 3,000 sexual assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

In the safety report, Uber said 464 people were raped while using its U.S. services in 2017 and 2018. Almost all of them — 99.4 per cent — were riders. It’s difficult to compare those statistics to other modes of transportation, because U.S. taxi companies and transit agencies generally do not collect similar national data.

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Even so, many said the report shows Uber has work to do.

“This is a major crisis situation that they’re going to have to deal with because the brand’s built on safety, and even though some could try to say it’s a small number, it’s still way too high — it’s higher than zero — and I think that shows a gap in their screening process,” said Dan Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities.

The revelations give “meat on the bones” to regulators, including those in London who chose not to renew Uber’s license over safety issues, he said.

Uber investigating after Toronto woman left stranded ‘in middle of nowhere’ during Calgary snowstorm

Uber investigating after Toronto woman left stranded ‘in middle of nowhere’ during Calgary snowstorm

Uber has been working to improve safety over the last two years, rolling out features including an in-app emergency button, a ride-check feature that detects unexpected stops or crashes and the ability for riders or drivers to share their location with loved ones during a ride. The company outlined additional safety steps it will take in the report.

On Monday, Uber plans to launch in seven cities a feature to give riders a four-digit number that they can use to verify that they are getting into the right car. Next year, it plans to launch a survivor support hotline staffed by RAINN, a sexual violence organization, and to provide sexual misconduct education for drivers. The hotline may encourage more victims to report attacks.

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The report only covers Uber’s U.S. operations. The U.S. and Canada brought in 63 per cent of Uber’s revenue last quarter. Lyft said it would release its own safety report, but it has not indicated when.

READ MORE: Ridesharing companies worried about mounting municipal business licences in B.C.

Critics say Uber should be doing more, particularly with background checks, to weed out potentially dangerous drivers. Unlike many taxi companies, Uber and its main U.S. rival, Lyft, do not check drivers’ fingerprints against a national database.

The gold standard for background checks is fingerprinting “because someone can easily fake a Social Security number,” said Dominique Penson, an attorney who has represented sexual assault victims. “You can’t fake a fingerprint. And if somebody has been convicted of a crime anywhere in the United States, that will appear in a national database, and when you run that fingerprint, you’ll know.”

Uber says the FBI has acknowledged its database is incomplete and does not always include a final disposition. The company’s process includes a motor vehicle screening, a criminal background check and ongoing notifications about any new offences.

Quebec taxi drivers worry new legislation will leave them out in the cold

Quebec taxi drivers worry new legislation will leave them out in the cold

An added fingerprint check could add precious time to the driver-approval process at a time when both Uber and Lyft are fiercely competing for market share.

Dashboard cameras also could help by recording incidents and serving as a deterrent for bad behaviour, said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and online community for drivers. Campbell encourages drivers to get cameras, but the ride-hailing companies have not encouraged the practice.

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“Even if you have dashcam footage, it’s hard to get Uber and Lyft to actually look at the footage,” Campbell said.

READ MORE: Vancouver loses what little ridesharing it had as Kater suspends service

Last month, Uber announced it would allow passengers and drivers in Brazil and Mexico to record audio of their rides.

A U.S. House committee is looking at legislation that could reduce the number of sex assaults involving ride-hailing passengers and drivers, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Friday.

The committee has discussed requiring fingerprint background checks, camera monitoring and front license plates for ride-hailing cars in states that don’t have them. This would help prevent fake ride-hailing drivers from picking up passengers by making it easier for passengers to check plate numbers against the ones provided by Uber and Lyft, DeFazio said.

Former Google engineer now Uber employee charged with tech theft

Former Google engineer now Uber employee charged with tech theft

In Eugene, Oregon, fingerprint checks earlier this year by the local police department found about two dozen Uber and Lyft drivers had criminal records that were missed in the companies’ checks, DeFazio said. One was a convicted murderer, while another was a registered sex offender, according to The Register-Guard newspaper. The city stopped the people from driving for the companies.

There may be limits on what federal legislators can do. Ride-hailing companies could be regulated federally because they conduct interstate commerce, but that is new legal territory, he said.

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Still, he applauded Uber’s report, saying the company had done more than any of its competitors “by just reporting,” DeFazio said. “There’s more to be done, for sure.”

The report raised alarm among some riders.

READ MORE: Uber stripped of licence in London, U.K. over safety ‘failures’

“I think I’ve taken it a little bit for granted, the fact that the app already tracks who I am and where I’m at,” said Mary Yao, 28, an MBA student at U.C. Berkeley. “I think I’ll be more conscientious next time I climb into a car to not always be on my phone. So it has made me raise my awareness a little bit.”

Bryant Greening, an attorney and co-founder of LegalRideshare, a Chicago law firm that specializes in ride-sharing cases, noted that more than 40% per cent of the reported sexual assaults, which include incidents less serious than rape, were against drivers, who also are at risk.

“There’s no more dangerous place to be than in a moving car with a stranger,” Greening said. “You are really vulnerable without a clear path to escape. So this system, rideshare, needs to be made safe for everybody who is in that car.”

Uber in Vancouver

Uber in Vancouver

© 2019 The Canadian Press

Source: Global News

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Prince Harry, Meghan will no longer be working members of the royal family

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Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will no longer be working members of the royal family, Buckingham Palace says.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Palace confirmed the pair will be required to “step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments,” and will no longer receive public funds for royal duties.

READ MORE: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle are moving to Canada: Here’s what we know

According to the statement, the Sussexes will not use their royal titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family, and will repay money used to refurbish Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their family home in the U.K.

“With the Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations,” the statement reads.

According to the Palace, while the pair can no longer formally represent the Queem

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In a statement, Queen Elizabeth II said the decision comes following “months of conversations and more recent discussions.”

Harry, 35, and his American wife, former actress Meghan, 38, sparked a crisis in the British monarchy this month by announcing they wanted to reduce their royal duties and spend more time in North America, while also becoming financially independent.

The Sussexs in… Sussex, N.B.?
The Sussexs in… Sussex, N.B.?

“I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family,” she said in the statement. “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family. I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.”

According to the palace, the new model will take effect in the spring of this year.

-More to come.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Source: Global News

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No immediate injuries reported after earthquake shakes Indonesia

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A strong inland earthquake late Saturday night struck Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province. There were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties.

The magnitude 6.0 quake was centred 141 kilometres west of Abepura city at a depth of 33.6 kilometres, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

READ MORE: Mudslides, power outages in Indonesia challenge search for people missing amid floods

Rahmat Triyono, head of Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami centre, said in a statement the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, and urged people to stay away from slopes of soil or rocks that have the potential for landslides as people in some parts of Papua province felt a moderate tremor for a few seconds.

He said there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press

Source: Global News

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Here are the rules surrounding Trump’s Senate impeachment trial

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Earlier this week, after nearly a month-long standoff, the articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump were formally handed over to the Senate, setting into motion an historic trial.

Although the trial ceremonially began on Thursday, its substantive proceedings are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Trump’s impeachment articles head to Senate — Here’s what to watch for

While not a criminal trial, the Senate is tasked with deciding whether Trump’s conduct warrants his removal from the office of the President of the United States.

On Thursday, the two articles were read aloud on the Senate floor, and Senators — who will act as jurors —  were sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, taking an oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.”

Now that the process has moved to the Senate — the upper chamber of Congress — a new series of rules will be put in place to govern the proceedings.

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How will the Senate impeachment trial work and what are the rules?

Here’s a look at what’s happening.

What’s at issue

On Dec. 18, Trump became the third-ever U.S. President to be impeached.

Following weeks of investigation, a majority of Congress members in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favour of impeaching Trump over two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Trump says U.S. has a good president ‘even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a b***h’
Trump says U.S. has a good president ‘even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a b***h’

Trump was found to have abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the announcement of investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter‘s work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, and into unsubstantiated claims that the country interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Lawmakers said Trump impeded their investigation by refusing to hand over important documents, and by ordering officials called to testify not to comply with lawful subpoenas.

Trump has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly called the impeachment process a “sham” and a “hoax.”

Rules of engagement

Now that the impeachment process has moved on to the Senate, a strict set of rules will be applied to help to govern the proceedings.

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One of the main rules is that Senators must refrain from talking during the trial.

According to historic Senate rules, Senators must “keep silent, on pain of imprisonment,” meaning no talking or debate is permitted in the chamber during the trial.

In a set of decorum guidelines released earlier this week, Senators were reminded that they would have the opportunity for “limited speech,” and that members should “refrain from speaking to neighbouring Senators while the case is being presented.”

Ex-Giulani associate contradicts Trump on Ukraine scandal
Ex-Giulani associate contradicts Trump on Ukraine scandal

Senators are also prohibited from using cell phones or other electronic devices. According to the guidelines, all electronic devices must be left outside of the chamber in the cloakroom.

As well, Senators have been told to only bring reading material that pertains “to the matter before the Senate” to the chamber.

The prosecutors

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the seven members that will act as House managers and will prosecute the case against Trump in the proceedings.

Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Val Demings, Jason Crow, Sylvia Garcia and Zoe Lofgren will make the case that Trump should be removed from office due to his misconduct.

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The defence team

Meanwhile, Trump has been assembling his own legal team.

Leading the group is White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow.

READ MORE: Trump adds 2 members to legal team, including former Clinton investigator

Other members of Trump’s defence team include Ken Starr, the prosecutor whose investigation two decades ago resulted in the impeachment of Bill Clinton and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general; Jane Raskin who was part of the president’s legal team during Robert Mueller’s investigation; Robert Ray, who was part of the Whitewater investigation of the Clintons; and Eric D. Herschmann of the Kasowitz Benson Torres legal firm, which has represented Trump in numerous cases over the last 15 years, have also been named to the team.

Chief Justice Roberts

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, 64, will preside over the trial.

READ MORE: A look at Chief Justice Roberts, who will preside over Trump’s impeachment trial

His main role is to keep the process on track. He could, however, be asked to rule on whether certain witnesses should be called to testify. If a majority in the Senate disagrees with a ruling he makes, senators can vote to overturn his decision.

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When will it begin?

The trial is set to begin at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, and as designated by Senate rules, will run six days per week — Monday to Saturday — until it is finished.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will kick-off the proceedings by introducing a resolution, to set the ground rules of the trial.

McConnell previously said the rules will be structured around those followed during the impeachment trial of Clinton in 1999.

READ MORE: Trump’s impeachment trial officially underway in U.S. Senate

All of the parameters of the trial, including speaking time and potential witnesses, will be laid out during this time.

Once the resolution has been adopted, opening arguments will begin. This is expected to last a number of days.

After opening arguments have been delivered, Senators will be given the opportunity to submit questions to both sides.

Witnesses?

Democrats are expected to continue their push to hear from witnesses during the Senate trial.

If McConnell’s resolution on initial trial rules is adopted, as expected, Senators would likely vote sometime after the trial has started on whether to introduce witness testimony sought by the Democrats.

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Democrats are seeking testimony from White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, his senior adviser Robert Blair, former national security adviser John Bolton and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey.

Trump on photograph of him with Lev Parnas: ‘I take thousands of pictures’
Trump on photograph of him with Lev Parnas: ‘I take thousands of pictures’

McConnell, however, has lambasted the Democrats over their calls for witnesses, saying it is a “fishing expedition.”

“If the existing case is strong, there’s no need for the judge and jury to reopen the investigation,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

READ MORE: John Bolton willing to testify in Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed

Just last week, though, Bolton said he was “prepared to testify” if subpoenaed by the Senate.

“If the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” he said.

Bolton did not testify before the House.

The vote

At the end of the trial, the Senate will hold a vote on whether or not to convict and remove Trump from office.

A two-thirds vote is needed in order for Trump to be ousted.

The Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the 100-seat Senate chamber, meaning all Democrats, both Independents and 20 Republicans in the Senate would need to vote to convict and remove Trump— something experts say is very unlikely.

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Mitch McConnell sees Senate impeachment trial starting in days
Mitch McConnell sees Senate impeachment trial starting in days

It is widely expected that Trump will be acquitted by his fellow Republicans, and will remain in office, eligible for re-election.

If two-thirds of the Senate did vote to remove Trump, Vice President Mike Pence would take over the office until the November election.

—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Source: Global News

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