Category Archives: News (current)

President Trump is Interested in The Hyperloop!!!

Earlier this week, Elon Musk dined at the White House with the president to discuss his infrastructure plan for the country, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal. President Trump in turn expressed his interest in the Hyperloop.

While no concrete plans have been provided, the administration has stated their intentions to dedicate significant budget towards improving America’s roads and bridges. That certainly could include the latest technologies, like the Hyperloop. That being said, Trump’s curiosity for Musk’s ambitious transportation project doesn’t necessarily mean it come to fruition under his administration. According to The American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. would need $3.6 trillion to update the entire country’s infrastructure — and that’s not counting the Hyperloop.

Of course, apart from Musk sitting down with the President, there aren’t any concrete details that would suggest Trump could allot trillions from the federal budget for the project. Still, Trump’s interest could hint that the administration is looking towards privatizing American transportation infrastructure.

Hyperloop One has been in the headlines quite a bit recently, particularly after images of the Nevada test track surfaced online.

While it’s only a third of a mile (and has yet to be tested using actual pods or undergo public trials) the track is the first full-scale Hyperloop track. It also managed to complete a public trial of its propulsion system last year — however, it fell short of targets.

Ideally, the Hyperloop should be able to travel at 750 mph. The five-second, podless rail test only managed to hit 300 mph.

According to Musk, it would cost around $6 billion to create a Hyperloop line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. If that sounds like a lot, when you look at the cost per mile ($11.5 million) it actually works out to be less than a high-speed rail, according to Forbes. Musk’s intention to build the system in tunnels is putting more focus on additional costs, however. Of course, this all rests on the premise that a perfectly working Hyperloop can be built — and it’s still up for debate whether that, and the projected cost, is actually feasible.

Yes, our group is still very interested in the planned Hyperloop between Louisville and Chicago!

The Greatest Show On Earth DIES. What a Terrible Event!

After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May.

Good Bye to a big part of America. No more Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus Combined Shows

The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.

“There isn’t any one thing,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”

The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.

The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.

By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn’t have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.

“The competitor in many ways is time,” said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers’ children— are throwbacks to another era. “It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.”

The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes.

“Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes,” he said.

Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company’s chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.

Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn’t want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.

The Felds say their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. Juliette Feld says the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Some 500 people perform and work on both touring shows. A handful will be placed in positions with the company’s other, profitable shows — it owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live, among other things — but most will be out of a job. Juliette Feld said the company will help employees with job placement and resumes. In some cases where a circus employee lives on the tour rail car (the circus travels by train), the company will also help with housing relocation.

Kenneth Feld became visibly emotional while discussing the decision with a reporter. He said over the next four months, fans will be able to say goodbye at the remaining shows.

In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. It added elements from its other, popular shows, such as motorbike daredevils and ice skaters. But it seemingly was no match for Pokemon Go and a generation of kids who desire familiar brands and YouTube celebrities.

“We tried all these different things to see what would work, and supported it with a lot of funding as well, and we weren’t successful in finding the solution,” said Kenneth Feld.

You can still find us on the Web: https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/circus-trains/

UBER’s Rise From SCAB To Superstar

So in case the term is new to you, what is a SCAB?

The Urban Dictionary defines it as: ” A worker, often temporary, who crosses a strikers’ picket line, going to work in place of the strikers.” An example of usage:
“The scabs had their cars egged when they arrived at the factory.”

SCABS used to be looked down on in America.

Well, this is how UBER arrived on the business scene in 2008.

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What happened? First of all, UBER started using a computer “APP” to order a taxi (or whatever you call it in UBERese).

Uber had some financial problems like trying to break into China. But some smart financial persons solved their money problems by modifying their business plan. Now they are in the “self driving car” business.

uber02

Now they are in the “tech elite” of America!

No word about “scab labor” anymore.

They even got invited to Donald Trump’s “tech conference”. This is the same Donald Trump who counts on support of organized labor embracing a “scab company”.

California could not handle testing of self-driving cars, so they relocated to Arizona

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BEWARE OF MEDIA AND THEIR POLLS: They are not perfect!

The election of 1948 had a lot in common with 2016. It was CLOSE. All kinds of results from polls. Day after election the Chicago Tribune (probably the second biggest newspaper in the United States) ran with a Dewey victory! The single most famous newspaper error…..ever.

Harry Truman was not popular. He had taken over the Presidency when popular President FDR died. Truman ended up making the most important decision in the history of the United States: to drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan.

Thomas E Dewey was the Governor of New York and was relatively unknown throughout the country. Dewey had “made his mark” as New York City District Attorney in successfully prosecuting “The Mob”.

I trust Presidential polls as far as I can throw them. They are only as good as the people who participate in them. I have never been asked to participate in a Presidential poll AND I AM NOT ALONE.

Finally a story about Dewey. In 1948, Presidential Candidates did not rate Secret Service protection. (Not until 1968 when candidate Robert Kennedy was assassinated).

I was on a train from Utica, New York to New York City in 1948 near the election. Our train stopped at Albany Union Station. We looked out the window and saw Governor Thomas E Dewey on the platform headed for OUR TRAIN. He was accompanied by just a single New York State Trooper (in uniform and armed with his service revolver).

Now I thought in 1948 that the New York State Troopers were great and could do anything. My grandfather (at that time Paymaster of the NY Central System) joked that Dewey should have ridden in a “Pay Car”. A Pay Car had a railroad detective and two armed paymasters). Of course, by 1948 all the pay cars had gone to scrap and the whole system was paid by check from Utica (the reason I was born in Utica).

Written by Ken Kinlock

How Hyperloop One Went Off the Rails (Muhammad Ali Hyperlink))

The transportation startup is trying to make a pod levitate in a tunnel, but can it rise above founder clashes and employee lawsuits?

In December 2014, an engineer with the unlikely name Brogan BamBrogan was in the driveway of his clapboard Los Angeles house, loading up his car for a holiday road trip to Northern California, when venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar messaged him for a favor. The two were founders of Hyperloop One, a startup building futuristic tubes to zip people from city to city. Shervin Pishevar, a partner at Sherpa Capital, was the money guy; BamBrogan the chief technical officer. Pishevar’s brother, Afshin Pishevar, was driving west from Washington to join the company as general counsel, and needed a place to stay. BamBrogan and his wife stopped packing, cleaned the bathroom, and tucked a spare key under the front mat of his Los Feliz home. When they returned a few days later, Afshin Pishevar was still there. Their houseplants were littered with cigarette butts.
Twenty months later, neither BamBrogan nor Afshin Pishevar work at Hyperloop One, and in June, BamBrogan and three other former employees filed a lawsuit against the Pishevar brothers and the company, also naming Chief Executive Officer Robert Lloyd and investor Joseph Lonsdale in the suit. It alleges the men didn’t have the company’s interests at heart, and also makes claims of assault and defamation. In its countersuit against BamBrogan and the other ex-employees, Hyperloop One said the insurgent employees were trying to start a competing firm. One dispute surrounds a long, looped rope BamBrogan discovered on his office chair one morning, in the shape of a noose or a lasso, depending on your perspective. There is no mystery over who left it there: his former houseguest, Afshin Pishevar.

Startups, including success stories Facebook and Twitter, often suffer founder clashes, executive churn, and squabbles over equity. But at Hyperloop One, a high-profile company spawned from an idea by Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, things got very toxic, very fast. The dueling lawsuits and lurid accusations threaten to sully the company’s idealistic mission to create a new form of transportation.
A lawyer representing Hyperloop One, Orin Snyder, a partner at Gibson Dunn, said: “We are confident that at the end of the day it will be obvious that their entire lawsuit was a crass publicity stunt based on lies and smears intended to cover up a failed coup and illegal plot to steal intellectual property and create a competing hyperloop company.” BamBrogan and his co-plaintiffs deny they were attempting a coup. Through his lawyer David Willingham, Afshin Pishevar denied leaving the cigarette butts in BamBrogan’s home.
The company, now run by Lloyd, former Cisco president, is moving forward with plans to make a viable transportation mode out of large pods zooming through tubes. Early next year, Lloyd said, they’ll have their “Kitty Hawk moment,” aiming to levitate a pod inside a tunnel. The test is crucial for persuading investors to sink more money into Hyperloop, whose projects will likely each cost billions of dollars.
“These are big steps for a company that’s only 20 months old,” he said. Although the events of the past few weeks are “not something I would have hoped for,” Lloyd believes they will ultimately make the company stronger. “We all come together more closely when somebody surprises us, or we feel attacked,” he said.

Shervin Pishevar, a well-connected entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, made his name through an early investment in Uber, after having moved to the U.S. from Iran as a child in the late 1970s. He likes to name drop his famous friends, and once flew to Cuba with Musk and actor Sean Penn to try, unsuccessfully, to negotiate for a U.S. political prisoner’s release.

Inspired by Musk’s vision, Shervin Pishevar searched for a technology prodigy to execute it, settling on BamBrogan, a wiry, handlebar-mustachioed former SpaceX engineer. Until 2014, his name had been Kevin Brogan, but he legally changed it to merge names with his wife, Bambi. At Musk’s SpaceX, BamBrogan was employee #23, and a polarizing figure. Known back then as K-Bro, he was the cool kid among the brainy engineers. BamBrogan would organize parties and other diversions for the over-worked 20-somethings. He had plenty of enemies there, though, particularly those who did not feel like part of the BamBrogan clique.
Shervin Pishevar offered him six percent of the company and started raising funds, bringing in Lonsdale, co-founder of the data-analysis behemoth Palantir Technologies. BamBrogan began drawing up designs.
BamBrogan instilled a hard-charging, fast-moving culture at Hyperloop One. He angered quickly, but commanded considerable loyalty. Many employees kept fake million-dollar bills with his image on them taped to their desks. A few months after the company had moved into a former factory in Los Angeles, BamBrogan announced another expansion by bursting through a wall wearing a Kool-Aid suit.
Shervin Pishevar’s brother Afshin worked as a lawyer near Washington for years, with one of his cases landing on Washingtonian Magazine’s 2014 list of top personal-injury verdicts. That year, tragedy struck when his son died in a flying accident, according to the countersuit. Hyperloop offered a fresh start.
Afshin Pishevar eventually found his own apartment, but he and BamBrogan started butting heads. BamBrogan chafed when he thought Afshin Pishevar was slow with paperwork, according to a person familiar with the situation. Through his lawyer Willingham, Afshin Pishevar said startups sometimes act hastily, entering into agreements against their best interests, and it is the chief legal officer’s role to make sure actions are within the letter of the law.
Hyperloop One could sometimes feel like college. Workers stayed late, batting around ideas, playing board games, and eating leftovers from the day’s catered lunch—tacos, curries, burgers. But tight deadlines and regular changes of plan also created stress and led to tiffs, according to former employees. Hyperloop employees often had to tidy up for VIPs arriving for tours. Hosting celebrities like Katy Perry has its perks, but the visits and parties started to wear thin on some. A spokesman for the company, Farrell Sklerov, denied that the events were frequent.

BamBrogan was for a time the interim CEO of Hyperloop One, but a reluctant corporate leader. Last summer, the board hired Lloyd, who started in September. The staff had just received raises, and spirits ran high. To celebrate, everyone whacked at a piñata that spilled out fake bank notes emblazoned with images of Lloyd and other executives.
Meanwhile, Afshin Pishevar was the subject of several complaints alleging “unprofessional outbursts,” according to the July lawsuit filed by BamBrogan and other former Hyperloop employees. In one instance, learning of an internal meeting that didn’t include him, Afshin Pishevar joined the gathering and in a raised voice demanded to know why he wasn’t invited, where one of the participants went to college, and when he had graduated, according to a person present at the meeting. BamBrogan and others hoped Lloyd would rein in Afshin Pishevar. Lloyd declined to discuss Afshin Pishevar’s tenure. Through Willingham, Afshin Pishevar denied behaving unprofessionally.
At first, Lloyd promised overhauls, and some hoped that meant the departure of Afshin Pishevar, people familiar with the situation said. Sklerov denied Lloyd ever said he would fire Afshin Pishevar.
In an interview, Lloyd was reluctant to rehash the past, but made plain he preferred spending time on areas where his big-company background makes a difference, such as negotiating partnerships and hiring top-notch staff. “You focus on the things you can control,” Lloyd said, speaking generally.
Lloyd oversaw a major funding push, raising an additional $80 million this year, bringing total capital raised to over $100 million. But to some, the fundraising exacerbated another grievance: employee equity. BamBrogan had received additional shares as the company arranged the $80 million fundraising round, according to Hyperloop One’s counterlawsuit, but most employees had not. Some wanted more.
Meanwhile, Lloyd had his own frustrations with BamBrogan, meeting with him on at least five occasions to discuss “negative and disruptive behavior,” according to the countersuit. BamBrogan said the meetings were to discuss Lloyd’s performance, not his.
In one instance, BamBrogan smashed a beer bottle when angered, according to the countersuit; BamBrogan acknowledged smashing the bottle outside.
By late spring, BamBrogan believed the time had come to hold a frank discussion with Shervin Pishevar to press him again on the employee equity and other issues. He was able to corner Shervin Pishevar at the test site in the Nevada desert where the company was gearing up to show off its propulsion system. The two exchanged “tough words” about equity, the tours, and other concerns, BamBrogan said, but they agreed to work things out.
The propulsion system test in mid-May was successful: They managed to accelerate a sled on a track to 116 miles per hour in just over a second. Reporters gathered around BamBrogan, Lloyd and Shervin Pishevar embracing. But things were still tense. And back in Los Angeles, little seemed to change.
By late May, a group of top employees decided to take action. They convened in Ripley, a conference room named after the monster-battling character in the movie “Alien.” They drew up demands, including engineering representation on the board in the form of BamBrogan and engineering president Josh Giegel, more equity for staff, and an end to Shervin Pishevar’s tenure as executive chairman, according to the litigation. The group hoped that Lloyd, just back from a China business trip, would sign the letter, too. They called him, but he declined.
The company has its own take. In its countersuit, Hyperloop One said BamBrogan, former vice president of business development Knut Sauer, former assistant general counsel David Pendergast, and former finance vice president William Mulholland were seeking to take over the company or start a rival company, even purchasing the domain name “Hyperlooptoo.com.” The plaintiffs issued a statement labeling the countersuit “complete fiction,” but added that once their “attempted intervention” antagonized board members, it wasn’t surprising they considered “looking for other work.”
Lloyd wasn’t caught off guard by the letter’s demands, but something else gnawed at him. “I was surprised by the tone, and the aggression,” he said. “And suggested there were better ways to work things out.”

Board member Justin Fishner-Wolfson was deputized to patch things up. On May 31, he met for seven hours with the disgruntled employees, having worked over Memorial Day weekend with other board members on a response that incorporated many of the employees’ demands, including changing equity provisions, according to the countersuit.
The group kept coming to work. On the morning of June 15th, employees who signed the letter were gathering once again in Ripley, preparing to meet with Fishner-Wolfson and Lloyd. BamBrogan entered, wheeling his desk chair. On it rested a rope, looped at the end. To BamBrogan, it was a noose and a threat. The company insists it was a lasso, saying in its countersuit that Afshin Pishevar intended it “for someone acting like a cowboy.” Through Willingham, Afshin Pishevar said designating the rope a noose amounts to “an ill-fated attempt to bolster a meritless lawsuit.”
Gathered around the reception desk reviewing security video footage, several staff members watched a grainy image of Afshin Pishevar walking toward BamBrogan’s desk late the night before, rope in hand. He was angry that BamBrogan had notified Russian investors of the group’s grievances shortly before Shervin Pishevar was due to meet with them, according the countersuit.
The countersuit cited a text Shervin Pishevar had sent his brother on the night of the incident: “One comment and guidance. Act completely calm and don’t show any emotion. Don’t say anything negative or provide any ammunition for them to use against us, our family, or our company. Thanks.” Willingham declined to comment on the text.
Afshin Pishevar admitted leaving the rope, according to the countersuit. Another person familiar with the situation characterized the rope as a “prank.” Prank or threat, within the hour, he was fired and escorted out of the building. The police arrived. Lawyers convened.
By day’s end, Pendergast was also fired. The next day, BamBrogan, Sauer and Mulholland resigned, and weeks later, they and Pendergast filed their lawsuit alleging breach of fiduciary duty and other claims. Within days, the company responded with its countersuit, also alleging claims including breach of fiduciary duty.

Sarah McBride
@mcbridesg

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March Against Monsanto Happening Everywhere May 21

hy do we march?

Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects. In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products. Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.

For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup. Monsanto’s GMO seeds are harmful to the environment; for example, scientists have indicated they have caused colony collapse among the world’s bee population.

What are solutions we advocate for?

Vote with your dollar by buying organic and boycotting Monsanto owned companies that use GMOs in their products. Labeling of GMOs so that consumers can make those informed decisions easier. Repealing relevant provisions of the US’s “Monsanto Protection Act.” Calling for further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs. Holding Monsanto executives and Monsanto-supporting politicians accountable through direct communication, grassroots journalism, social media, etc. Continuing to inform the public about Monsanto’s secrets. Taking to the streets to show the world and Monsanto that we won’t take these injustices quietly. We will not stand for cronyism. We will not stand for poison. That’s why we March Against Monsanto.

Please click here to find an event near you.

By NationofChange

US exporters want Congress to determine if SOLAS can be revoked or revised

WASHINGTON — Agriculture shippers are asking Congress to determine whether the U.S government can revise or downright revoke a new international container weight rule, ahead of a congressional hearing on the controversial regulation next week.

“We ask Congress to determine if the Coast Guard, as the U.S. representative to the IMO, (can) revisit the IMO SOLAS amendment and gain revisions, if not revocation,” the Agriculture Transportation Coalition said in a statement Thursday.

The group has been a fierce opponent to the International Maritime Organization’s amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, Convention that will require all shipping containers be accompanied by documentation detailing their verified gross mass prior to vessel loading effective July 1.

AgTC has said that not only has the new rule left many shippers mired in confusion with less than 100 days before it goes into effect, but the regulation could also handicap U.S. producers that compete against other countries where enforcement may be lax.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing next week looking into the impact of the SOLAS rule on U.S. exporters. Congress rarely weighs in on container shipping unless there is concern about export trade — as lawmakers did during the 2014-15 West Coast port congestion crisis.

And, according to AgTC, the SOLAS amendment is “not simply a technical maritime matter, but rather, will have a significant impact on U.S. export competitiveness and the U.S. economy, at a time that the Federal Reserve Board and others are concerned about the health of U.S. exports and the drag on the U.S. economy.”

Due to the strong U.S. dollar and slowing global demand, U.S. containerized exports will only grow 4 percent this year after falling roughly 2.5 percent last year, according to Mario Moreno, senior economist for IHS Maritime & Trade.

AgTC is also questioning the supremacy of IMO regulations over U.S. law.

“We ask Congress to determine how a change in ocean shipping practices of such magnitude as this SOLAS rule, can be imposed on the U.S., without any prior Congressional notice, review or approval,” the group said.

AgTC has been pushing for what the groups calls a “rational” means of implementation ahead of the July 1 SOLAS amendment rollout.

By that, the group means a system in which U.S. exporters certify the weight of their cargo and packing materials, while container lines would certify the weight of the containers that they own, control and manage. The liners would then combine the two weights to create a VGM that  is submitted to the terminal operator before loading. The carriers say they need the VGM days in advance to make stowage plans with the marine terminals.

AgTC has argued that other groups, specifically the World Shipping Council and the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association, have been pushing an alternative agenda.

“Their approach: demanding that an individual employee in the U.S. exporting company, such as a farmer or food processor, be personally liable to certify the weight of the ocean carrier’s own container and send that certification to that same ocean carrier,” AgTC said.

The shippers group likened that methodology to something out of Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice in Wonderland.”

According to AgTC, the aforementioned “scheme” will impose unnecessary costs and delay shipments. It will also give rise to congestion at U.S. ports, missed sailings, spoiled cargo and angry foreign customers, the group said.

AgTC additionally cited investment bank Cowen & Company that has projected the “overly strict method of compliance” will increase the cost of shipping by container anywhere from $50 to $125 per box and create “massive disruption” at U.S. ports.

What the group means by “personally liable,” however, is unclear. The U.S. Coast Guard has said that it will not be penalizing shippers for noncompliance with the new SOLAS amendment. The federal agency has gone on record to say that compliance with the new rule should be handled as a “business practice” instead of through regulatory enforcement.

Peter Friedmann, AgTC’s executive director, clarified that his group takes issue with OCEMA’s published “best practices.” Those practices state carriers will require the name and a signature of shippers to accompany VGM documentation, Friedmann said.

“To the exporters, that looks like an avenue for the carrier to hold an individual liable, should there be damage, injury, etc.,” he told JOC.com Thursday.

At issue, Friedmann said, is that a shipper’s signature makes him liable for both the weight of his cargo, but also the weight of the carrier’s container.

“Now, I understand the shippers don’t mind signing for and being liable for the weight of their cargo, but they are highly averse to signing for and being liable for the weight of the carrier’s own container,” he said.

WSC responded Thursday that it was surprised that Friedmann’s group, which began asking last fall for more clarification on VGM transmittal methods, now seems upset because carriers have responded to their request. The WSC represents carriers controlling roughly 90 percent of global container capacity and was a major player in the creation of the SOLAS rule.

Both AgTC and WSC will be in attendance at the upcoming congressional hearing.

Although the amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention approved in 2014 has been raised at several congressional hearings, the April 14 hearing is the first time the issue will come front and center on Capitol Hill.

“We look forward to discussing the facts about the important safety issue of having accurate weights for packed containers being loaded on the ships that carry the import and export commerce of the United States,” WSC said.

Those scheduled to testify at the hearing include Donna Lemm, vice president of sales and marketing at logistics provider Mallory Alexander and chairwoman of AgTC’s Container Weight Committee; WSC CEO and President John Butler; John Crowley, executive director of the National Association of Waterfront Employers; and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, according to their respective organizations and agency.

Blockchain as a service may be in your future — like it or not

Although consumers have been reticent about digital payments, new services — such as Venmo and blockchain — are making the benefits of mobile payments difficult to deny.

As digitization and mobile devices overtake virtually every corner of business, they are upending the traditional services that consumers take for granted. Think financial transactions.

Digital payments have been disrupting cash and credit cards for several years. Mobile wallets, or digital payments, enable consumers to pay for items with a smartphone or tablet using services such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet. With these mobile payments, consumers may accrue loyalty points for future discounts, or simply circumvent the hassle and insecurity of cash and credit cards. They are also compelling for lower-wage earners who don’t have credit, or for Millennials who want more flexible payment options. Despite concerns about data security risks and flimsy ROI, digital payments may be nearing the tipping point for adoption.

Even traditional technology vendors — Microsoft included — are getting in on the action. Microsoft has been hard at work on a blockchain as a service offering (BaaS) to be hosted on its Azure cloud. Blockchain technology enlists a distributed digital ledger. It eliminates the single point of failure of traditional credit and doesn’t need a central authority, such as a bank. It is transparent, secure, outage-resistant and auditable, making it appealing to industries and consumers in search of greater levels of security.

An executive at a southeastern retail company who requested anonymity said he wants to ramp up his digital payment offerings, and is looking at technologies like blockchain — once consumers and the market rally around certain options. “We use Apple Pay, but we are waiting to see which other services we want to bring on and if customers really want them,” he said. “We don’t want to offer everything under the sun.”

This week, Microsoft furthered its foray into blockchain as a service. It formed a partnership with the R3 Consortium — a collection of major banks, including Citigroup, Barclays and Wells Fargo — to promote and extend BaaS through infrastructure and tools on the Azure platform.

“R3 and member banks will experiment and learn faster, accelerating distributed ledger technology deployment,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of global business development at Microsoft, in a statement.