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Calls for Transforming Police Run Into Realities of Governing in Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS — The calls for sweeping reforms to policing that have reverberated since the death of George Floyd slammed into the messy realities of lawmaking on Friday, offering a glimpse of the uncertainties of turning protest into policy.

Nearly a week after nine members of the Minneapolis City Council made a drastic pledge to take apart the Police Department, the council took its first steps on Friday in a slow, complicated process that could eventually lead to shifting funds from the city police. But that process will last for more than a year and require voters to actually approve of removing the Police Department from the city’s core departments.

And in the State Capitol, an ambitious package of police reforms proposed by Democrats faced an uncertain future as Republicans who control the State Senate said they would oppose some of the most far-reaching changes, such as restoring voting rights to felons or putting the state’s attorney general, rather than local prosecutors, in charge of prosecuting killings by the police.

Republican leaders said they would support five less contentious measures, including banning chokeholds and providing more money for “de-escalation” training. Democrats said the Republicans’ proposals fell short of the fundamental changes that tens of thousands of people have demanded in how the police treat black men and women and other people of color.

“We should do the work that the people have demanded that we do,” Melissa Hortman, speaker of the Minnesota House and a Democrat, said in an interview.

There is not much time for finding common ground. As a special session got underway on Friday to address policing, the economy and the coronavirus, leading Republicans said they hoped to wrap up all of their work by the end of next week.

“We’re not going to stay in special session for months and months,” State Senator Paul Gazelka, the Republican majority leader, said at a briefing on Friday. “We’re going to do the things we can do now.”

It was a sobering reality check for Democrats who have embraced activists’ calls for transformative changes that include going as far as cutting the budgets of local police departments or drastically rethinking how the police interact with people in their communities.

“This is not what Minnesotans of all persuasions are asking us to do,” said State Senator Jeff Hayden, a Democrat whose district includes the Minneapolis neighborhood where Mr. Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Still, police departments, cities and states across the country have already made a flurry of changes after the upheaval, including re-examining police budgets, banning chokeholds and removing officers from schools.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a broad package of bills aimed at combating police brutality. Some of the bills had languished for years in the face of opposition from police unions. The bills included a ban on the use of chokeholds as well as the repeal of a decades-old statute that had allowed the police to keep disciplinary records of officers secret.

But while Minnesota has become ground zero for protests, it is also showing the enduring obstacles facing the overarching changes many activists are demanding, especially in a 2020 battleground that is the only state in the nation where Democrats and Republicans each control one of the two legislative chambers.

While Democrats and liberal activists are leading the calls for change on the streets of American cities, many state governments are controlled by Republicans who back law enforcement and are leery of proposals to defund police departments or make it easier to sue officers. Polling is showing support for many reforms but widespread opposition to defunding the police, a term that can mean different things in different cities.

Reform efforts in Washington face similar challenges after Democrats unveiled a sweeping bill this week aimed at addressing racial bias and the overuse of force in policing.

Image

Credit…Tim Gruber for The New York Times

In Minneapolis, the City Council’s move to reduce the role of the Police Department was hailed by activists as a transformational change and condemned by conservatives as a lurch toward lawlessness.

Wayne Reyes Jr., whose father was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officers in 2006, said he was hopeful that lawmakers would make meaningful changes this time, but said he was angry it had taken more killings for them to do so. Derek Chauvin, the former officer who has been charged with killing Mr. Floyd, was one of the officers who opened fire at Mr. Reyes’s father, Wayne Reyes Sr., a Native American man who the police said aimed a shotgun at them.

“It seems like people have been asking for these changes for a long time,” Mr. Reyes, 35, said in an interview, “and it wasn’t until just the last couple of weeks that people are starting to look and listen a little bit.”

On Friday, Minneapolis’s efforts to alter policing in the city appeared mostly to be a slow, governmental grind. To achieve its aims of dismantling the Police Department as it currently exists, the City Council plans to ask voters to approve rewriting a section of the City Charter to eliminate a provision that dictates a minimum number of police officers. That change would give council members much more flexibility to divert funds to mental health and other agencies that could respond to calls traditionally handled by the police.

The ballot initiative would also include removing the Minneapolis Police Department from the charter — although not necessarily abolishing it altogether — and adding a new department “focused on cultivating public safety.”

The City Council also voted unanimously, at its virtual meeting, on a resolution to commit to a yearlong effort to research other models of public safety and to listen to what residents say they would like to see.

Andrea Jenkins, the vice president of the City Council, said the world was looking to Minneapolis to see how it would respond after the killing of Mr. Floyd last month.

“People have marched all over the world, all over the city of Minneapolis, and what they’re saying to us is they want change,” Ms. Jenkins said. “Not ‘fix it,’ not reform, but change. So we must take these voices seriously.”

The resolution passed on Friday creates a “Future of Community Safety Work Group” that will soon begin listening to residents, interviewing experts and studying other models of public safety to determine how various city services could replace many of the Police Department’s current functions.

Alondra Cano, the chairwoman of the public safety committee, said in an interview after the vote that the engagement of city residents would be vital to determining the right solutions for public safety in Minneapolis.

“The beauty of this project is that the answers come from the community, that collectively, the future of this city will be decided by the people who live here,” Ms. Cano said.

She added that the initiative to get rid of the City Charter’s requirement that the Police Department have .0017 employees per city resident would remove a large hurdle that stands in the way of redirecting funds from the police to violence prevention programs and other city agencies. If the initiative does get on the ballot in November, it would require a majority of voters to pass.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/us/minneapolis-police-defunding.html

Fintech

Accept.inc secures $90M in debt and equity to scale its digital mortgage lending platform

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A lot of startups were built to help people make all-cash offers on homes with the purpose of gaining an edge against other buyers, especially in ultra-competitive markets. 

Accepti.inc is a Denver-based company that is attempting to create a new category in real estate technology. To help scale its digital mortgage lending platform, the company announced today that it has secured $90 million in debt and equity – with $78 million in debt and $12 million in equity. Signal Fire led the equity portion of its financing, which also included participation from existing seed investors Y Combinator and DN Capital.

Accept.inc describes itself as an iLender, or a “technology-enabled lender” that gives people a way to submit all-cash offers on a home upon qualifying for a mortgage.

Using its platform, a buyer gets qualified first and then can start looking for homes that fall at or under the amount he or she is approved for. They can purchase a more expensive home, but any amount above what they are approved for would have to come out of pocket. Historically, most buyers don’t know that they will have to pay out of pocket until they’ve made an offer on a specific home and an appraisal comes under the amount of the price they are paying for a home. In those cases, the buyer has to cough up the difference out of pocket. With Accept.inc., its execs tout, buyers know upfront how much they are approved for and can spend on a new home “so there are no surprises later.”

SignalFire Founding Partner and CTO Ilya Kirnos describes Accept.inc as “the first and only iLender.”

He points out that since it is a lender, Accept.inc doesn’t make its money by charging buyers fees like some others in the all-cash offer space.

“Unlike ‘iBuyers’ or ‘alternative iBuyers,’ Accept.inc fronts the cash to buy a house and then makes money off mortgage origination and title, meaning sellers, homebuyers and their agents pay no additional cost for the service,” he told TechCrunch.

IBuyers instead buy homes from sellers who signed up online, make a profit by often fixing up and selling those homes and then helping people purchase a different home with all cash. They also make money by charging transaction fees. A slew of companies operate in the space including established players such as Opendoor and Zillow and newer players such as Homelight.

Image credit: Accept.inc. Left to right: Co-founders Adam Pollack, Nick Friedman and Ian Perrex.

Since its 2016 inception, Accept.inc says it has helped thousands of buyers, agents and sellers close on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in homes. The company saw ”14x” growth in 2020 and from June 2020 to June 2021, it achieved “10x” growth in terms of the size of its team and number of transactions and revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adam Pollack. Accept.inc wants to use its new capital to build on that momentum and meet demand.

Pollack and Nick Friedman met while in college and started building Accept.inc with the goal of “turning every offer into a cash offer.” The pair essentially “failed for two years,” half-jokes Pollack.

“We basically became an encyclopedia of 1,000 ways the idea of helping people make all-cash offers wouldn’t work,” he said.

The team went through Y Combinator in the winter of 2019 and that’s when they created the iLender concept. In the iLender model, the company uses its cash to buy a house for buyers. Once the loan with Accept.inc is ready to close, the company sells back the house to the buyer “at no additional cost or fees.”

“Basically what we learned through those two years is that you have to vertically integrate all of your core competencies, and you can’t rely on third parties to own or manage your special sauce for you,” Pollack told TechCrunch. “We also realized that if you’re going to build a cash offer for anyone who could afford a mortgage, you’ve got to make it a full bona fide cash offer that closes in three days as opposed to a better version of what existed. And you have to own that, and take the risk that comes with it and be comfortable with that.”

The benefits of their model, the pair say, is that buyers get to be cash buyers, sellers can close in as little as 32 hours, and agents “get a guaranteed commission check.” 

“Our mission is that everyone should have an equal chance at homeownership,” Friedman said. “We not only want to level the playing field, we want to create a new standard.”

Buyers using Accept.inc win 6-7 times more frequently, the company claims. With its new capital, It also plans to double its team of 90 and enter new markets outside of its home base of Denver.

SignalFire Partner Chris Scoggins believes that Accept.inc is different from other lenders in that its focus is on “winning the home, not just servicing the loan, with a business model that’s 10x more capital-efficient than other players in the market.

The team is driven…to level the playing field for homebuyers who today lose out against all-cash offers from home-flippers and wealthy individuals,” he added. “We see an enormous opportunity for Accept.inc to become the backbone of the future of mortgage lending.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/24/accept-inc-secures-90m-in-debt-equity/

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Apple’s AirPods Max fall to a new all-time low of $489 at Amazon

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All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

With good looks, quality construction and great natural sound, Apple’s AirPods Max headphones tick all the right boxes, but they’re mighty expensive at $550. However, you can now pick up a pair from Amazon at $490, the lowest price we’ve seen yet. That’s still not inexpensive by any means, but it’s a substantial savings on high-end headphones that only came out seven months ago. 

Buy Apple AirPods Max (pink) at Amazon – $490 Buy Apple AirPods Max (sky blue) at Amazon – $489 Buy Apple AirPods Max (space gray) at Amazon – $489

With an Engadget review score of 84, the AirPods Max earned a spot in our list of the best headphones you can buy. They look and feel great thanks to the aluminum and metal design, breathable mesh fabric and large earcups. A rotating crown and dedicated button let you switch between ANC and and regular modes, and it’s easy to switch seamlessly between iPhones, Macs and iPads. They offer hands-free capability with Siri, and you can go for up to 20 hours between charges with both ANC and spatial sound enabled.  

AirPods Max offer a more natural sound experience than other headphones, with bass that’s not overcooked. Active noise cancellation quality is right up there, though not quite on par with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 ANC headphones. And they support Apple’s Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio on iPhones, iPads and Macs right now, and will come to Apple TV this fall. The main drawback is that they won’t stream Apple’s new lossless audio. 

Still, they deliver in nearly every other area and are especially useful for folks with Apple devices. $60 is a substantial discount for an Apple product this new, so if you’re interested, it would be best to act soon. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-airpods-max-good-deal-amazon-124026253.html?src=rss_b2c

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SA agritech releases AI-enabled OmnioFarm to modernise African poultry farming

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The founders of South African cryptocurrency investment platform Africrypt have disappeared along with $3.6 billion (R51.4 billion) worth of Bitcoin, according to a report….

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Source: https://ventureburn.com/2021/06/sa-agritech-releases-ai-enabled-omniofarm-to-modernise-african-poultry-farming/

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Visa to acquire open banking platform Tink for more than $2 billion

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Visa has announced plans to acquire Tink for €1.8 billion, or $2.15 billion at today’s exchange rate. Tink has been a leading fintech startup in Europe focused on open banking application programming interface (API).

Today’s move comes a few months after Visa abandoned its acquisition of Plaid, another popular open banking startup. Originally, Visa planned to spend $5.3 billion to acquire the American startup. But the company had to call off the acquisition after running into a regulatory wall.

Tink offers a single API so that customers can connect to bank accounts from their own apps and services. For instance, you can leverage Tink’s API to access account statements, initiate payments, fetch banking information and refresh this data regularly.

While banks and financial institutions now all have to offer open banking interfaces due to EU’s Payment Services Directive PSD2, there’s no single standard. Tink integrates with 3,400 banks and financial institutions.

App developers can use the same API call to interact with bank accounts across various financial institutions. As you may have guessed, it greatly simplifies the adoption of open banking features.

300 banks and fintech startups use Tink’s API to access third-party bank information — clients include PayPal, BNP Paribas, American Express and Lydia. Overall, Tink covers 250 million bank customers across Europe.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Tink operations should continue as usual after the acquisition. Visa plans to retain the brand and management team.

According to Crunchbase data, Tink has raised over $300 million from Dawn Capital, Eurazeo, HMI Capital, Insight Partners, PayPal Ventures, Creades, Heartcore Capital and others.

“For the past ten years we have worked relentlessly to build Tink into a leading open banking platform in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of what the whole team at Tink has created together,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement. “We have built something incredible and at the same time we have only scratched the surface.”

“Joining Visa, we will be able to move faster and reach further than ever before. Visa is the perfect partner for the next stage of Tink’s journey, and we are incredibly excited about what this will bring to our employees, customers and for the future of financial services.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/24/visa-to-acquire-open-banking-platform-tink-for-more-than-2-billion/

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