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Ex-Uber CEO weaves tale of Google betrayal in legal battle

Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 12:39 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

            Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, left, goes through a security line upon entering a federal courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in San Francisco. Kalanick took the witness stand ​Wednesday for a second day ​offering his initial response to allegations that he cooked up a scheme to steal self-driving car technology from Google. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, left, goes through a security line upon entering a federal courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in San Francisco. Kalanick took the witness stand ​Wednesday for a second day ​offering his initial response to allegations that he cooked up a scheme to steal self-driving car technology from Google. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was confronted Wednesday in court with old texts that suggested he was willing to go to any length to surpass a Google self-driving car project.

Kalanick was on the witness stand for a second day to answer allegations that he teamed up with former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to rip off self-driving car technology now owned by Waymo, a Google spinoff.

In one February 2016 text, Kalanick agreed with a comment by Levandowski that "second place is first looser (sic)." Another text included a link to a video clip from the 1987 movie "Wall Street" that is popularly known as the "Greed is good" speech.

In a later text, Levandowski told Kalanick, "we do need to think through the strategy to take all the shortcuts we can find."

Waymo alleges that Levandowski heisted eight trade secrets from Google before leaving the company in January 2016. He founded his own startup, Otto, which Uber bought a few months later for $680 million. Kalanick has acknowledged discussing plans for Otto with Levandowski before he started it, though both he and Uber deny they ever used any Google technology to build a fleet of self-driving cars.

Kalanick didn't deny any of the exchanges, although he didn't recall some of them. He had little to say about the texts, other than his recollection that he originally heard his high school football coach say, "second place is first loser."

After a Waymo lawyer finished grilling him, Kalanick turned to a more emotional tale under friendly questioning from an Uber attorney, casting himself as a "little brother" betrayed by an older and more powerful sibling. Uber and Google were once partners, although their interests later began to collide, souring the business relationship.

Kalanick recalled that Uber only had a few hundred employees in the summer of 2013 when Google was negotiating to make a major investment in the ride-hailing service. He remembered thinking it was "cool" when Google sent over one of its self-driving cars to pick him up and drive over to meet with then Google CEO Larry Page (now CEO of Google's corporate parent, Alphabet Inc.)

"It was kind of like little brother with big brother," Kalanick described his relationship with Page, 44, who co-founded Google in a Silicon Valley garage in 1998. That was 11 years before Kalanick, 41, started Uber.

After Google invested in Uber, Kalanick testified, the plan was for Uber to eventually deploy Google's self-driving cars in its ride-hailing service. "Google was a huge partner of ours," he said. "It was a great relationship."

But things began to change in 2014 when Kalanick heard rumors that Google intended to challenge Uber with its own ride-hailing service. That testimony is supported by internal Google documents already displayed in the trial showing plans to "consume" all of Uber's profits by 2025.

Kalanick testified that he tried to contact Page about the rumors, only to be given the cold shoulder. Convinced that Google was going its own way, Kalanick decided to start a self-driving car division within Uber by hiring top engineers specializing in robotics from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 2015.

That move incensed Page, Kalanick testified. "Larry was very upset that we were doing his thing," Kalanick said. Page is expected to testify later in the trial.

Dissatisfied with the progress that the engineers imported from Carnegie-Mellon, Kalanick began looking for other talent in late 2015. That spawned his discussions with Levandowski, a respected expert in self-driving vehicles who had become disillusioned with the direction of Google's project.

What happened next lies at the heart of the trial. Waymo alleges Kalanick and Levandowski cooked up a plan for Levandowski to launch his startup as a storehouse for Google trade secrets that would later be transferred to Uber. Kalanick says he simply found a way to bring Levandowski and his vast knowledge to Uber.

"We hired Anthony because we thought he was incredibly visionary," said Kalanick, who also described Levandowski as "very charming."

Uber wound up firing Levandowski last May after he refused to relinquish his constitutional rights against self-incrimination when questioned about whether he stole trade secrets before leaving Google.

Kalanick was pressured by investors to step down as CEO a month after Levandowski's firing, partly because of concerns about Waymo's lawsuit. "This (case) makes it not as great as we thought it was in the beginning," Kalanick said of the deal that brought Levandowski to Uber.

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Several sinkholes open in Florida neighborhood, threaten homes

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 6:08 AM

Several sinkholes opened in a Florida neighborhood. (Photo:
Several sinkholes opened in a Florida neighborhood. (Photo:

Several sinkholes opened in The Villages Thursday, threatening several homes, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. 

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Four homes have been evacuated. Officials said the largest of the three holes is 35 feet deep and 18 feet wide. 

One of the sinkholes that opened up is outside Frank Newman’s home.

He said he heard strange sounds and wasn’t sure what was going on.

“At about 12:30 I was watching the Olympics when I heard something that I thought was thunder,” Newman said.

Hours later, he found out what was actually going on.

“My front door bell rings about 3:10. It was a policeman saying, ‘You got to get out of your house,’” Newman said.

Marion County Emergency Management was also at the scene and said that utilities to the four closest homes have been disconnected as a precaution.

The sinkholes go beneath two of the homes.

Photos: Sinkholes open in Villages neighborhood

Cracks formed outside Newman’s neighbor’s home and a hole opened up near her front door.

“In her house, she is seeing cracks inside the house on the floor and stuff,” Newman said. “She can’t get her car out of the garage because the garage door won’t open.”

Signs have been placed outside some of the homes warning the houses have been condemned.

Golf course officials are draining a lake to help the situation. Utilities officials said that if a water main break occurs, they will be able to handle it, but 20 homes could potentially lose water service if that happens.

Residents were allowed to briefly return to their homes to pick up some belongings.

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Missing Florida girl, 11, found with suspected abductor at Georgia hotel, deputies say

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 5:52 AM

Alice Johnson. (Photo via Florida Department of Law Enforcement)
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Alice Johnson. (Photo via Florida Department of Law Enforcement)(Florida Department of Law Enforcement)

An 11-year-old Orange County, Florida, girl was found Sunday afternoon at a Georgia hotel room with a 24-year-old Illinois man who had abducted her, Georgia's Bibb County Sheriff’s Office said.

Alice Amelia Johnson was reported missing at about 9 a.m. Sunday from a subdivision near University Boulevard and North Econlockhatchee Trail in Orange County, deputies said.

Investigators said they tracked Alice's cellphone while she was traveling with John Peter Byrns, of Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

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At about 2 p.m. Sunday, Orange County deputies contacted Bibb County deputies, who were contacted by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent two hours later, officials said.

Byrns and Alice were found shortly before 6 p.m. in a room at a Holiday Inn Express and Suites near Macon, deputies said.

Investigators said charges are pending against Byrns, who is being held at the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center.

Alice was reunited with her parents Sunday evening.


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Florida school shooting: Teacher of the year's emotional Facebook post goes viral

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 4:35 AM

WATCH: Suspected Florida High School Shooter Nikolas Cruz Appears In Court

An educator at Eustis Middle School in Florida, who was named teacher of the year last month, posted her reaction on social media to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead.

>> WATCH: Florida school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez slams politicians, NRA in emotional speech

Posted by Kelly Guthrie Raley on Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kelly Guthrie Raley’s response has been shared more than 600,000 times since she posted it on her Facebook page, with many more likes.

>> Florida sheriff to politicians who don't support gun control: 'You will not get re-elected'

Raley wrote that mental health issues, lack of available care for them, lack of discipline at home, lack of parental support for teacher discipline of their children, lack of moral values, promotion of violence through video games and the screaming on reality TV have created a culture where compassion is gone and the “permanency of death” is not understood by youths.

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"Those 17 lives mattered," she wrote. "When are we going to take our own responsibility seriously?"

>> Read her full post here

Okay, I’ll be the bad guy and say what no one else is brave enough to say, but wants to say. I’ll take all the...

Posted by Kelly Guthrie Raley on Thursday, February 15, 2018

Self-proclaimed white nationalist banned from Seattle gym

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 6:28 AM

A Seattle gym banned Greg Johnson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. (Photo:
A Seattle gym banned Greg Johnson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. (Photo:

A self-proclaimed white nationalist was banned from a Fremont gym after the owners learned he is a leader in the alt-right community.

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The owners of Northwest Fitness Project say Greg Johnson is longer welcome there.

“The trainer terminated his contract and we banned him from the gym,” said Kyle Davis, a co-owner of the gym.

It's a move that has some people wondering if it violates a city ordinance that says "places of public accommodation" can't discriminate based on a person's beliefs.

But the owners of the gym say that ordinance doesn't apply -- because it’s not a public space. To use the space, you must be the client of a trainer.

“There’s no open gym membership, it's not like people can come and go as they please,” Davis said. “Trainers come and run their own businesses out of this location."

“There's a right of first refusal of the independent trainer. And (the trainer) chose to not work with him anymore due to the harm it would cause his reputation, and not wanting to be associated with those views,” Davis said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Greg Johnson an "international figure for white nationalism” and “one of the leading voices of the far-right.”

In September 2017, the New York Times interviewed him undercover and posted it on its website.

In the interview, Johnson says, “I would identify myself as a white nationalist. That states the goals I have politically.”

When asked about people who are Jewish, Johnson says, “The solution would ultimately (be) to expel them.”

Davis said he’s disturbed to hear Johnson’s views.

“I would feel threatened, yes,” he said. “I'm converting to Judaism, my fiancée is Jewish and we want to raise our kids Jewish.”

The owners say after Johnson was banned, a white nationalist publication told followers to post negative reviews on the gym's Yelp and Facebook pages.

“We were at a five (star average review); it went down to a three,” said Matthew Holland, the other co-owner of Northwest Fitness Project.

But hundreds of people supported the gym on social media, helping it bounce back.

“Now we're to like a 4.8,” Holland said. “We have a great community and we didn't realize how awesome they all were. Going through a rough time like this, it was just so encouraging.”

The Puget Sound Anarchists first published last week that Johnson lives in Seattle. It’s also how the gym owners found out about Johnson’s beliefs.

Johnson did not comment.

The gym said it heard Johnson left the area.