10 Things To Know About The Proposed Bipartisan Prison Reform Act, First Step

In an administration that seems hell-bent on breaking things, lawmakers have a chance to reach across the aisle and disrupt

In an administration that seems hell-bent on breaking things, lawmakers have a chance to reach across the aisle and disrupt the prevailing spirit of divisiveness by advancing a proposed prison reform bill.

The proposed First Step Act, if adopted, will expand incentives in federal prison to prepare men and women for the workforce after they are released from incarceration.

Here are 10 things you should know about the proposed bipartisan prison reform act, FirstStep.

1.What the bill aims to do

The bill encourages inmates to participate in more vocational and rehabilitative programs, allowing “earned time credits” for early release to halfway houses or home confinement. This could help reduce prison overcrowding. Education programs may reduce the likelihood of recidivism — at least that’s the hope.

The bill increases “good time credits” that inmates can earn from 47 days per year incarcerated to 54. This allows inmates to cut their prison sentence by an additional week for each year incarcerated. This would apply retroactively.

The bill also aims to:

  • Authorize $50 million more funding a year over five years to support more programs in prisons.
  • Mandate that prisoners are placed within 500 driving miles of their families.
  • Help formerly incarcerated obtain identification after their release.
  • Impose a federal ban on shackling women who are pregnant or have just given birth.

2. Van Jones is heavily vested in seeing this bill become law

CNN contributor and host of “The Van Jones Show,” Van Jones is the co-founder of #cut 50, a bipartisan initiative to cut crime in half in the incarcerated population. An author and non-practicing attorney, Jones co-founded the nonprofits Dream Corps, a social justice accelerator that operates three advocacy initiatives including #cut50, #Yeswecode and Green for All.

Jones co-wrote a recent CNN opinion piece with Mark Holden, a lawyer for Koch Industries who is chairman of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. They promote the bill as “Congress’ chance to fix our failing prison system.”

3. A former corrections officer is part of the bipartisan push for the bill

A former corrections officer at the Worcester County jail in the early 1980s, Koch Industries attorney Mark Holden now advocates for criminal justice reform and giving ex-offenders a fair chance at employment.

“There but for the grace of God go I,” Holden said in a 2016 Worster Telegram interview.

The Koch family is known for their political activities (donating to conservative and Republican Party causes), and control of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately owned company in the U.S.

4. The bill had overwhelming bipartisan support in one House committee

Earlier this month the House Judiciary Committee voted 25–5 to advance the First Step Act bill.

5. Support for the bill is mirrored in the American public

A recent Justice Action Network Poll shows that 60 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Independents and 80 percent of Democrats support some criminal justice reform and 85 percent want the criminal justice system focus more on rehabilitation according to CNN.

6.The First Step Act has limited reach

The First Step Act — short for Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act — has its limited reach written into its name. It’s only the first step in reforming the federal criminal justice system. It won’t amount to a big change in America’s criminal justice system, partly because the federal prison system makes up a relatively small portion of the incarcerated U.S. population, Vox reported.

The bill won’t reform or reduce how long people are sentenced, which has been the main focus of criminal justice reformers over the past few years. Instead, it focuses on rehabilitating people once they’re already in prison by incentivizing them, with the possibility of earlier release, to take part in rehabilitation programs.

7.The First Step system is data-driven. That is causing criticism

The First Step system would use an algorithm to initially determine who can cash in earned time credits. Inmates deemed higher risk can earn credits but are not cash them in until their risk level is reduced.

The algorithm risks “embedding deep racial and class bias into decisions that heavily impact the lives and futures of federal prisoners and their families,” the advocacy group Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a letter to lawmakers. The group typically backs criminal justice reform, Vox reported:

An algorithm that excludes someone from earning credits due to previous criminal history may overlook that black and poor people are more likely to be incarcerated for crimes even when they’re not more likely to actually commit those crimes.”

8.The bill is not universally popular

For those in Congress who want to tackle the broader issue of sentencing reform, the bill is a disappointment, CBS reported. Several other civil rights groups including the ACLU and the NAACP have issues with the bill.

9.Some fear the bill will pave the way to privatization

Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, joined Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Ill., Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California in trying to stop the bill by warning colleagues in a letter that the roots of the bill’s recidivism reduction system was flawed, could not be implemented effectively, gave too much discretion to Attorney General Sessions and would lead to prison privatization:

“We believe that prison reform will fail if we do not address the mandatory minimum sentences that have filled our prisons with individuals convicted of nonviolent offenses.”


10.Eric Holder is opposed to the bill in its current form

To reform America’s prisons, we must change the laws that send people to them in the first place, Holder wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece on May 21. The former U.S. attorney general from 2009 to 2015, Holder said:

“Anything less represents a failure of leadership. But now the Trump administration is pushing a misguided legislative effort …  that threatens to derail momentum for sentencing reform. The bill is a tempting half-measure, but lawmakers should resist the lure. The chance to implement real, comprehensive reform may not come again any time soon.”


prison reform
Jason Killinger

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Walmart Seeks Blockchain-Based Patent To Help Customers Resell Products

Blockchain technology just got a major boost to becoming commonplace in the U.S. One of world’s largest retail chains, Walmart

Blockchain technology just got a major boost to becoming commonplace in the U.S.

One of world’s largest retail chains, Walmart has filed a patent for a blockchain-based marketplace for reselling purchased products. The patent was filed May 17 with the  US Patent and Trademark Office.

“The application describes a service that would record a customer’s purchases in a blockchain ledger, thus allowing the customer to resell the items on a sales platform using the record of purchase,” Coin Telegraph reported.

According to the patent notes, when customers look to get rid of unused or unneeded items, they are often “left to their own devices to arrange for a subsequent resale.”

What Walmart proposes is a system that will offer “additional support to greatly ease and facilitate their later reselling of items.” The interface for this proposed system could be point-of-sale, browser-based, or a mobile device among other options. In short, the blockchain marketplace will help customers resell Walmart products they no longer want.

With this, Walmart will keep track of customer purchases.

“According to CoinDesk, the patent details a blockchain ledger that can track items that stores sell to particular customers. The system would allow a customer to register an item after it’s been purchased and then choose a price for resale, with the system acting like a digital marketplace,” PYMTS.com reported.

“By one approach, the transfer from the seller to the courier may require signatures from both the sender and the courier using their respective private keys,” the company wrote. “The new transaction may be broadcasted and verified by the sender, the courier, the buyer and/or other nodes on the system before being added to the distributed delivery record blockchain. When the package is transferred from the courier to the buyer, the courier may use the courier’s private key to authorize the transfer of the digital asset representing the physical asset from the courier to the buyer and update the delivery record with the new transaction.”

This isn’t the first blockchain patent the company has filed for. “In the beginning of March, a Walmart filed a different patent for a ‘Smart Package’ delivery system that uses a blockchain-based tool for tracking package contents, environmental conditions, and locations,” Coin Telegraph reported.  Also, at the end of April, the vice president of Walmart’s Food Safety and Health announced Walmart would be using blockchain tech in its live food business. This he said would improve contamination management and overall transparency.

Walmart is using IBM’s blockchain technology to ensure food safety. Walmart tracks its produce from the farm to the store shelf to confirm items have not been contaminated or are within their sell-by date. Transport company Maersk has established a joint venture with IBM to develop a global trade platform for the blockchain system to help companies reduce costs and eliminate inefficiencies with how items are being shipped, IEEE reported.

As of 2017, Walmart operated about 6,363 international stores.

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Why Is A Norwegian Newspaper Going After Tidal?

It seems Tidal is under attack — an attack started by a Norwegian newspaper. First, the newspaper claimed that the

Norwegian Newspaper

It seems Tidal is under attack — an attack started by a Norwegian newspaper. First, the newspaper claimed that the music streaming service owned primarily by rap mogul Jay-Z was faking streams, especially for Beyonce and Kanye West.

Now Norwegian financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) is claiming that Tidal is not paying record labels on time.

This begs the questions: Why is the Norwegian media going after Tidal so hard? Is it because of Tidal rival Spotify?

The timing is curious as the attacks on Tidal started less than a month after Spotify went public.The latest revelation, according to the newspaper, is that Tidal is “significantly behind with its royalty payments to music industry rights-holders,”
Music Business Worldwide reported.

DN claims Tidal is late in paying three major international record companies, including two Norway-based music businesses–independent label Propellor Records and its distributor, Sony-owned Phonofile.

“It is correct that there are delays in payments from Tidal,” said Sveinung Rindal, CEO of Phonofil /head of The Orchard in Norway.

“We have not been paid since October,” Frithjof Boye Hungnes, CEO of Propeller Recordings, added.

Other parties claiming that Tidal has not paid them for months include successful local artists Bjørn Gunnar Sando–drummer and manager of Hellbillies–in addition to ‘Ravi’ Johansen, Music Business Worldwide reported.

Just last week, Tidal was accused of manipulating streaming numbers for its two biggest ever exclusive album releases–Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life Of Pablo.” The newspaper said it had obtained a hard drive which contained data that proved Tidal had faked streams.

Tidal has denied all these charges and has accused accusing DN of a “smear campaign” against it.

Yet these newspaper reports have led to Tidal being put under investigation.

“Norwegian collection society Tono, which represents around 30,000 songwriters, has filed an official police complaint against Tidal, encouraging the authorities to look into the claims of streaming manipulation,” Music Business Worldwide reported.

And, Danish collection society Koda has announced it will be undertaking an independent audit of Tidal data. It’s been reported that Tidal reduced its recorded music royalty payout in April last year from a 62.5-percent share of its revenue to 55 percent.

Still, why is it only the Norwegian press and artists that are complaining about Tidal? Does It have something to do with Tidal rival, Spotify, which is a Swedish
entertainment company? Or is it because Jay-Z took over the former Norwegian company? 

In 2015, Jay-Z bought Aspiro, Norwegian parent company of a streaming service formerly known as Wimp, for $56 million.

In September of that year, he tweeted that Tidal had hit the 1 million-member milestone. Internal payments to record labels cited in Norwegian publication Dagens Næringsliv said it was closer to 350,000. Six months later, Tidal claimed it had reached the 3 million subscribers. The Norwegian newspaper said was closer to 1 million. “No further numbers have been circulated,” Variety reported. In 2017, Jay-Z sold a third of the company to Sprint based on a $600 million valuation.

In late April, Spotify went public. Spotify claims 157 million monthly active users in 61 countries, 71 million of which are in its premium paid-subscription tier.

“While Spotify is losing vast sums of money every year, its path to profitability is unclear and it has hedged its bets on Wall Street by going with a direct listing rather than a traditional initial public offering, it has a solid lead globally over the No. 2 service, Apple Music, and its name has become synonymous with streaming for many people,” Variety reported.

Spotify is still the leader, especially in the U.S. The company claims 41 percent of the U.S. market share, beating music services from Apple, Amazon, Pandora, Soundcloud and Tidal. However, “Spotify has yet to turn a profit, despite increasing revenue 38 percent to about $5 billion in 2017 from the prior year. Losses topped $1.5 billion for 2017, up from $662 million the prior year,” USA Today reported. 

Still, it seems time will tell why Tidal is under attack. Maybe the outcome of the investigation will reveal why. But for now, the negative publicity isn’t helping Tidal in its struggles.

Norwegian Newspaper
Jay-Z. Photo: Wenn


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Obama-Netflix Multiyear Production Deal Is Infuriating Trump Supporters

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series with Netflix, the

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series with Netflix, the company announced in a tweet.

The Obamas have sustained post-presidency popularity and stayed out of the public eye since Barack left office, but Trump supporters instantly bombarded the Netflix Twitter page, threatening to cancel their Netflix memberships.

The Obamas will produce a diverse mix of content, including the potential for scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries and features, Netflix announced in a press release.

These projects will be available to the 125-million households who are Netflix members in 190 countries.

The Obamas established Higher Ground Productions as the entity under which they will produce content for Netflix.

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” Barack said in a statement. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix – we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

The former president and first lady will sometimes be on camera as hosts or moderators, a source told CNN anonymously. In other cases they will stay behind the camera as producers.

Obama-Netflix production deal

“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” Michelle said. “Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”

The terms of the deal were not made public. Exclusive production partnerships are common in Hollywood, CNN reported. Netflix has attracted A-listers such as Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy. But this is a first-of-its-kind deal for a former U.S. president.

“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”

In his final days in office, Barack expressed interest in pursuing digital media ventures after he left office, CNN reported:

Jen Psaki, the White House communications director at the time, told CNN that ‘he is very interested in how people consume information and the changing trends,’ citing online and mobile news consumption.”

Back then, The New York Times said Barack could possibly moderate conversations on topics that dominated his presidency while Michelle could discuss topics such as nutrition, that she championed in the White House.

The talks with Netflix were first reported in March.

“Netflix is essentially giving the Obamas carte blanche to make whatever they want, in any way they want to,” Quartz reported:

The arrangement is similar to what prolific TV showrunner Ryan Murphy enjoys at Netflix, or what musician, actor, and filmmaker Donald Glover has at FX.

Media observers expect that the Obamas will not overtly address the Trump administration, Quartz reported:

(Trump will) (no doubt will be jealous over this news) and the New York Times reported (paywall) that the former first couple will not try use the deal to create a more progressive media rival to Fox News. Rather, it’s expected that they will focus on more uplifting stories that are important to them.”

Netflix competed with other networks and streaming services for the rights to Obama’s first interview after leaving office. It was a massive coup when Barack spoke with David Letterman on the comedian’s Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” Quartz reported.

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Not 1 Black Governor In 50 States. Georgia Candidate Stacey Abrams Wants To Change That

  Currently, there are no Black governors in 50 states. But Stacey Abrams is aiming to bring that number down


NPR reported.

Abrams, the former minority leader in the Georgia legislature, is facing a competitive primary against Democrat Stacey Evans, who is white, on May 22, in the primary elections. And since Black women are Georgia’s third largest voting bloc, Abrams has a good shot. Plus, she has celebrities and heavyweights coming out in droves to support her. Among them: A Tracee Ellis Ross and California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris.

Abrams isn’t the only looking to shake up the American political landscape. “This year, at least eight black candidates are running for governor across the country. They include candidates in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Wisconsin and Oklahoma,” NPR reported.

“In terms of there being viable Black candidates running for governor, this is definitely the biggest opportunity and biggest time we’ve seen this much at once,” said Quentin James, the founder of the Collective PAC, a national group focused on recruiting, training and funding progressive Black candidates.

If Black voters turn out on primary day, Abrams has a shot to make history. More than 30 percent of Georgia’s eligible voting population is Black, according to estimates from the States of Change project.

“Black people have been very loyal in the Democratic party,” said Aimee Allison, president of Democracy in Color, a national organization focused on race and politics. “They’re brand loyal. And white Democrats have counted on the Black vote for electoral success.”

And research has shown that when there are candidates of color on the ballot, people of color come out to vote.

“According to Higher Heights, a national organization focused on increasing black women’s political participation, more than 70 percent of Black women voters went to the polls when Obama was re-elected in 2012, outpacing turnout by white women (65.6 percent), white men (62.6 percent), and Black men (61.4 percent),” the Washington Post reported.

Still, Black candidates usually face many challenges–among the hardest to overcome are money and race. Setti Warren was forced to drop out of the governor’s race in Massachusetts last month because of the challenges he faced with fundraising. “The money just isn’t there to run the kind of campaign I want to run,” he said in a statement.

Financial support is difficult to come back for many Black candidates. Over in Maryland, Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker, who is one of three African-Americans running for governor in the Democratic primary, said, “The first issue for any person of color running statewide, the first thing they’ll ask you about is money–’’we don’t think you can raise money.’ It’s not even that you don’t have the money, or we’re gonna help you and see how you do. It’s an issue about whether you have the ability to raise money.”

Besides Baker, there are two other Black candidates: Valerie Ervin and former NAACP president Ben Jealous.


Featuring: Stacey Abrams Photo Credit: Barbara Jordan Forum 2012 Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams (MPAff ’98)


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Facebook Board Member Called Modi’s India Dumb For Rejecting Free Basics, Now India Looks Smart

In 2016, the “Pope of Silicon Valley” — Marc Andreessen — backed off social media after tweeting “anti-colonialism has been

In 2016, the “Pope of Silicon Valley” — Marc Andreessen — backed off social media after tweeting “anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”

The billionaire venture capitalist and Facebook board member was angry because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government rejected Facebook’s plan to offer free internet — a free internet that Facebook would have control over.

In light of Facebook’s ethical fumbles — new revelations keep surfacing about how Facebook exposed millions of users’ data for four years —  India is looking smarter than the other parts of the world that gave Facebook free access to data.

After being “burned to a crisp” for manhandling Facebook users’ data, “Cambridge Analytica’s ashes blew away on 2 May,” Naked Security reported.

Andreessen criticized India’s opposition to Free Basics on Facebook, likening India’s opposition to free Internet to anti-colonialism. His comment caused such an uproar that he apologized and deleted it.

Critics argued that Facebook’s Free Basics violates tenets of net neutrality, which stipulate that all internet content and users should be treated equally, CNN Money reported. They said it was dangerous to allow Facebook to decide what content was allowed on Free Basics, and what was not.

Andreessen disagreed. “Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong,” — Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 10, 2016.

Cambridge Analytica wasn’t an aberration. A twin named Cubeyou turned up in April: yet another firm that dressed up its personal-data snarfing as “nonprofit academic research,” in the form of personality quizzes, and handed over the data to marketers.”

In a private message leaked in 2010, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “Yea so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard . . . just ask.” His friend asked how he did it, Fast Company reported. “People just submitted it,” he said. “I don’t know why.”

“They ‘trust me,’” he added. “Dumb fucks.”

Those were the early days of moving fast and breaking things, and nearly 15 years later, Zuckerberg certainly regrets saying that. But even then he had caught on to a lucrative flaw in our relationship with data at the beginning of the 21st century, a delusional trust in distant companies based on agreements people don’t read, which have been virtually impossible to enforce. It’s a flaw that has since been abused by all kinds of hackers, for purposes the public is still largely in the dark about, even today.” — Fast Company

Rejecting Free Basics
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Illustration: Nishant Goswami

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East Africa Com Tracks Region’s Slow But Steady Tech Growth

East Africa Com serves to bring together stakeholders within the East African tech scene. Photo – Twitter Every year, stakeholders

East Africa Com serves to bring together stakeholders within the East African tech scene. Photo - Twitter

East Africa Com
East Africa Com serves to bring together stakeholders within the East African tech scene. Photo – Twitter

Every year, stakeholders in the East African tech scene converge on Nairobi for East Africa Com, the region’s flagship tech conference, to discuss progress and roadblocks in the region’s tech revolution.

The story of this year’s event was one of quiet progress, with discussion over the obstacles that remain when it comes to establishing cities like Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam as African tech hubs, and ensuring that technological development benefits all parts of society.

While the likes of Kenyan tech pioneer Dr Bitange Ndemo and ICT secretary Katherine Getao kicked off the event by hailing the extent of tech transformation in the region, others were more cautious when it came to the state of play.

Oren Tepper, vice president for sales in Africa at satellite operator Spacecom, said the provision of affordable connectivity was being hindered by the fact that satellite firms and mobile operators had yet to find affordable ways of working together.

“There is a conception that satellite connectivity is expensive. The challenge is to bring the cost per bit to as cheap as possible,” he said.

“There are a lot of upfront costs. So we need to find innovative business models to enable us to bootstrap projects and reduce costs.”

An operator shopping list

The mobile operators themselves are also looking for better working relationships, but with government. A panel on the regulatory environment for operators in Kenya convened representatives from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and the country’s three telecoms companies.

It agreed good progress had been made, but regulators can still do more when it comes to assisting development.

Paul Kukubo, board director at the government regulator, said Kenya had one of Africa’s most vibrant telecoms markets, while the recently-introduced policy of mobile money interoperability was an example of forward progression in the sector. The regulator, he said, had to continue to look forward.

“There are so many emerging issues – AI, data, what a network looks like in 2018, or 2025.  How do we create a regulatory environment? Our mindset now is a bit more futuristic. We don’t want to regulate for yesterday, the world moves on,” he said.

Kenyan operators want the world to move on in a certain way, and came to the event with a shopping list for government. Alice Kariuki, group regulatory director at Airtel Africa, said there were issues around how infrastructure is accessed by operators, and called for a stable tax environment.

“They don’t always have a consistent policy. When they face financial pressures they will target the telecoms space,” she said.

Karuki also said the region as a whole was lagging behind when it came to laws for data protection.

“We appear to want to have a European model before we have something to protect us. We need to have legislation that grows with the challenges as opposed to waiting for the perfect model,” she said.

Stella Wawira, head of public policy at Telkom Kenya, said the cost of spectrum was too high, and urged the CA to come up with a policy that encourages investment, a view echoed by Mercy Ndegwa, head of regulatory and public policy at Safaricom.

“We want an environment that allows for competitive investment. We want a framework that allows for consumer interest to thrive,” she said.

A bright future

Hindrances aside, the conference discussed a number of exciting developments, in spaces as diverse as internet of things and blockchain, that could contribute to the development of the region.  Startups also had their chance to impress, with nine innovative solutions from the region pitching their wares to an audience of investors, telecoms operatives and other stakeholders at the inaugural Disrupt Africa Live Pitch Competition on day two.

The startup-related section of the event also saw representatives from the corporate and startup worlds agree that, though progress had been made, more needed to be done in terms of facilitating partnerships between corporates like mobile operators and banks, and smaller, more innovative startups.

Uber also had its chance to share its vision of a brighter future, with the company’s East Africa general manager Loïc Amado introducing Uber Movement, its data-driven service aimed at facilitating smarter cities. He also said the company’s carpooling service will help get cars off the road in Africa.

However, he believes that the self-driving cars Uber is trialling will truly make an impact.

“This is going to be a gamechanger. It is still very early days, but shared self-driving cars would reduce the number of cars on the road by 90 percent,” he said. “We can turn a ride into a shared ride and start reclaiming our cities today.”

Financial inclusion

Fintech is another space that is developing quickly, with Anuj Tanna, director of mobile financial services at Telkom Kenya, saying the industry was “in a good place right now”.

“We are at a very mature stage compared to other markets in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

“We are seeing expansion above and beyond simple basic services like money transfers and payments, where we are leveraging platforms and ecosystems to drive further financial inclusion within the market. It has given a chance to developers and startups that are trying to solve problems.”

Tanna said different players should understand exactly what their individual roles were, and that the sector needed do more to tackle closed ecosystems.

“We are layering products, and that is natural. When you have the rails in place you want the products to bring different services to customers as well as additional revenue streams,” he said.

“The real thing that’s dawning on everyone is that there’s been a lot of progress but most transactions are still cash-based. There’s still so many hurdles when it comes to providing these products. A tech solution is not always a solution that is going to translate into customer behaviour.”

Tom Jackson is co-founder of Disrupt Africa, a news and research company focused on the African tech startup ecosystem.

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South Africa’s First Cryptocurrency ATM Improves Access To Bitcoin In Johannesburg

The first cryptocurrency ATM has launched in South Africa. Photo – CoinWire South Africa’s first cryptocurrency ATM has officially launched

The first cryptocurrency ATM has launched in South Africa. Photo - CoinWire

cryptocurrency ATM
The first cryptocurrency ATM has launched in South Africa. Photo – CoinWire

South Africa’s first cryptocurrency ATM has officially launched in Johannesburg, making it possible for South Africans to purchase various cryptocurrencies via the machine.

A South African blockchain firm called Vendibit established its first commercial cryptocurrency ATM in the country’s financial hub, placing it in the Spar-Northwold supermarket, according to IOL.

The ATM, which is known as a VTM machine, allows users to buy a variety of cryptocurrency options including Dash, Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum using South African Rands, linked to their smartphone cryptocurrency e-wallets.

Before they are able to use the cryptocurrency machines, users will need to open an e-wallet through established companies such as Luno and Wirex.

Daniel Cappiello, Vendibit senior blockchain consultant, explained the demand and functionality of the new cryptocurrency ATM.

“The rapid spread of blockchain technology and Vendibit VTM machines are proof that the public is demanding access to the future, today. Most people are becoming familiar of blockchain and cryptocurrencies thanks to names like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum,” Cappiello said, according to Techfinancials.

“The VTM machines allows customers to buy cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum with cash, with their smartphone-cryptocurrency e-wallets. They will also be able to send and receive peer-to-peer, without a bank. Worldwide, in the U.S., Europe and Asian countries, businesses are rapidly expanding their acceptance of cryptocurrencies in day-to-day peer to peer and business transactions,” he said.

“Vendibit believes the customer should always come first. Cryptocurrencies are still new in South Africa, so making information easily available and understandable to a broad public is vital. It is key that people understand that the price of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is volatile,” he added.

While adoption is growing, there has not been a great deal of clarity regarding regulation of cryptocurrencies in South Africa. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) recently revealed, however, that cryptocurrencies will be subject to normal income tax rules, iAfrikan reports.

Another cryptocurrency ATM for Africa

In April South Africa’s neighbor Zimbabwe saw their first cryptocurrency ATM launched in Harare, with users able to choose between purchasing either Bitcoin and Litecoin, according to Ventureburn.

Cryptocurrency exchange platform Golix is responsible for the ATM in their offices in the Zimbabwean capital, with people in the country embracing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

In the confusion and concern surrounding the potential for hyperinflation to affect Zimbabwe, bitcoin has become a viable and popular means of transacting in the country with regards to big ticket items, driving adoption and the price of the cryptocurrency on the local exchange.

Before the launch of the South African cryptocurrency ATM, only Zimbabwe and Djibouti had crypto machines in Africa from which the public could purchase Bitcoin.

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Hip-Hop Artist T.I. Refused Entry, Arrested At Gated Community Where He Lives

Imagine getting the police called on you while you’re trying to enter your own home. This has happened, unfortunately, to


Imagine getting the police called on you while you’re trying to enter your own home. This has happened, unfortunately, to more than a few residents of color who live in high-end communities across the country. The latest victim recently was rapper/actor/millionaire T.I.

Having lost his keys and arriving home early in the morning, a security guard, who T.I. claims was asleep on the job, refused to allow T.I. entry into his upscale gated community. T.I. called friends and even his wife, who was inside the residence, to prove he lived there. But things escalated when T.I. claims his wife, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, was disrespected by the guard. According to TMZ, things heated up when the security guard began to curse at Tiny, allegedly yelling, “Who the f–k do you think you is talking to me like this?” Later, according to the guard, things got out of hand and the guard called the police saying he felt threatened by T.I. The police arrested T.I. on charges of and simple assault, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, even those technically he was at his own home. T.I was released on bail. The security guard refused to tell T.I. and the police his name.

“In a 10-minute phone call, the guard at Eagles Landing Country Club told a 911 dispatcher early Wednesday (May 16) that a resident kept asking for his name and knocking on the guard shack door. The security guard acknowledged during the call he didn’t recognize the resident, who was identified as Clifford Harris, better known as T.I.,” Billboard reported.

T.I. says he was “wrongfully arrested.”  In surveillance footage from the jail T.I. was escorted to obtained by TMZ, you see T.I questioning the officer about his arrest. He asked the officer, “Why was I arrested?” The officer responded, “You were acting like a fool.”

“The guard continued to refuse entry without justification,” T.I. lawyers, Steven Sadow, said in a statement, referring to T.I. as Tip. “Words were exchanged and apparently the guard and/or a supervisor called the police. When the police arrived, they were not interested in hearing Tip’s side of the story and wrongfully chose to end the situation by arresting Tip.”

Eventually, the security guard, later identified as Euwan James, let T.I. inside the neighborhood but after driving up to his home he walked back to the guard shack to ask for the guard’s name. Then is when James called the police.

Featuring: T.I., Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. Credit: WENN.com



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Report Finds Blacks In NYC Still Arrested 8X More Than Whites On Low-Level Marijuana Charges

According to government surveys, Black and white people smoke marijuana at about the same rate, yet Black people in New


According to government surveys, Black and white people smoke marijuana at about the same rate, yet Black people in New York City are 8 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana possession charges than whites.

NYC police explain this disparity by saying there are more complaints about smoking in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. But an analysis by the New York Times found that this explanation isn’t correct as even in neighborhoods where residents made complaint calls about marijuana at the same rate, the police still arrested Black residents are higher rates.

While arrests have dropped overall, people of color remain disproportionately unchanged. “Mayor Bill de Blasio said in late 2014 that the police would largely give summonses instead of making arrests for carrying personal marijuana, and reserve arrests mainly for smoking in public. Since then, the police have arrested 17,500 people for marijuana possession on average a year, down from about 26,000 people in 2014, and issued thousands of additional summonses. Overall, arrests have dropped sharply from their recent peak of more than 50,000 during some years under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg,” the New York Times reported.

However, approximately 87 percent of those arrested in have been Black or Hispanic, and this has stayed the same for decades, according to research headed by Harry G. Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College.

Take for example, Brooklyn. In Canarsie, where the residents are 85 percent Black, there are four times more arrests than in the largely white area of Greenpoint (only 4 percent of the residents are Black), even though residents call 311 and 911 to complain about marijuana at about the same rate, found the Times.

Although police data do show Black and Hispanic neighborhoods generate more 311 and 911 complaint calls about marijuana, criminal justice reform advocates say this is because people in poor neighborhoods tend to the police since they are less likely to have a responsive landlord, building superintendent or co-op board member who can they can turn to for complaints.

In part because of this wide gap in arrests for marijuana, New York Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon suggested that Black neighbors be given greater consideration for legal marijuana licenses when marijuana becomes legal in the state. Nixon said this could be a form of reparations, an idea that was met with major backlash.

The NYT analysis looked at how marijuana arrests were related to the marijuana-complaint rate, race, violent-crime levels, the poverty rate, and even homeownership data in each precinct.


Illustration via Flickr user DonkeyHotey

[Read how we crunched the numbers to reveal the racial disparity in arrests.]


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