US Truck Drivers Call For Federal Action To Improve Working Conditions 

US truck drivers are currently pushing for federal action to be taken to improve the conditions in which they’re working. Drivers are asking for higher ups to address their deteriorating working conditions, decreasing pay, and rampant fraud. 

Caleb Fernandez is a part of the movement, and has been a long-distance truck driver since 2017. He stated to the media that he will often spend hours loading and/or unloading his truck’s cargo without getting paid for the full time. 

“I think that I’ve got my schedule down and then just one customer can completely mess it up. Even if there’s an appointment, they just don’t show much that they care about wasting my time.”

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“My whole week gets wrecked because of one customer that just didn’t care about the time. It’s a chaotic life,” he said

May 1st of this year, 75 members of the Truckers Movement for Justice held a protest outside of the US Department of Transportation offices in Washington DC, demanding action be taken on things like wage theft, lack of overtime pay, and unpaid wait times for delivering cargo or taking on loads. 

The group met with senior officials from the Department in 2021 as a part of President Joe Biden’s trucking action plan, and set initiatives that were meant to increase the supply of truck drivers. The group has claimed that they have yet to see any improvement on the three core demands made during the meeting. 

“We’ve lost our patience. This has been going for years and has only gotten worse with the lack of federal action. We don’t need taskforces and studies,” said Fernandez, who is also the deputy secretary for Truckers Movement for Justice.

When we look at the stats and consider the impact of inflation on salary, truck drivers in the US in 1980 made about $110,000 annually, and today they make, on average, about $48,000. There are currently more than 2 million Americans working as truck drivers today. 

Ray Randall also spoke on the hours he’s worked unpaid, and other working conditions that he was not compensated for in his 20 years working as a truck driver. 

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“Drivers should be paid detention time. We believe all drivers should be paid for all hours worked, because once you come on duty, you’re working. If you come to a shipper and have to wait, I’m working. Also, after 40 hours, companies pay employees overtime but drivers don’t get any overtime and we can put in 70-plus hours a week. We can be on duty 12 hours a day and we’re not getting paid for those 12 hours,” he explained

William McKelvie, a truck driver for over 25 years, explained that “in addition to unpaid detention time, broker fraud and a lack of overtime pay, layover rates for overnight hauls have decreased in years, down from $500-$1,000 to $250 or less.”

“Drivers have a right to review freight bills, which provide the transaction information regarding loads to ensure all parties that no one is being ripped off. Many brokers will blackball or push drivers out for requesting to see freight bills, to avoid any pushback or criticism of how the costs are dispersed from shippers to brokers and what portion is paid out to drivers,” said McKelvie. 

“This is something that corporations and others have used their strong arms and intimidation tactics to overrule and overpower the working men and women in the industry,” he said.

“The more of our time that they waste, the more it hurts us financially, economically, and the ability to go and get our proper rest and relax for the next load,” McKelvie said.

“From back in the day we went from working 50 hours a week to 60 hours a week, to now we are at 70 hours a week, and with the extended work, that doesn’t give us any time for any real-life quality,” he said.

DNA Babies 3D

Chinese Biophysicist Given Jail Time For Genetically Modifying Babies

There continues to be much debate over whether genetically modified embryos should be an acceptable practice in society and the viewpoints vary radically between countries, communities and cultures. Just last month, China handed down a prison sentence and fines to biophysicist He Jiankui and two of his colleagues after he was found guilty of illegal medical practices and jailed for three years. This followed his public announcement in December 2019 that he had, with the help of two embryologists, “created the world’s first gene-edited babies.” His claims attracted much negative attention and led to his prosecution at a Shenzhen court in December.

This case has led some scientists and ethicists to question the Chinese legal process for “lacking appropriate information about altered children.” It has been noted that China is lagging behind some other countries with regards to its views on genetic modification and there is much positive exploratory work taking place in the area of genetic modification which aims to tackle some of the most challenging genetically-related health issues affecting humans. But this work remains exploratory in nature as the future implications of altering genes in humans are unchartered territory and as such, are approached with caution, even by the most experienced of geneticists.

The courts revealed that Jiankui and his team, who also received lesser sentences, did not have the appropriate certifications to practice medicine and state news agency, Xinhua said, “in seeking fame and wealth, deliberately violated national regulations in scientific research and medical treatment. They’ve crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics.”

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Jiankui stated that his motivations behind his actions were driven by his interest in tackling HIV. The modified genes were designed to promote the resistance of HIV in the descendents of the babies and he sought out couples where only the father was infected with HIV, with the mother being clear. The couples were offered IVF in return for taking part.

He was extremely public about this work, speaking about his aspirations at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, China. He explained that he was committed to sparing future babies from becoming infected with HIV later in their lives. He had a vision that this could be used to reduce the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in much of Africa, where there is often intense discrimination of those inflicted with the disease.

That said, many remain skeptical and have accused him undertaking the work for his own fame than for the good of future humanity. It has also been highlighted that it was the way in which the accused had conducted the process which was worthy of the harsh sentence it attracted. It has been stated that the trio forged ethical review documents and knowingly misled the doctors responsible for implanting the gene-edited embryos into two women, resulting in the birth of twins for one of the mothers. It was these actions which the court deemed were “a direct and deliberate violation of national regulations on biomedical research and medical ethics.”

In addition, medical experts have also questioned the validity of Jiankui’s rationale, arguing that there are much more effective ways of preventing HIV infections and that his approach simply put babies at risk of the gene editing process, providing them with little benefit in return.

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They have also indicated that similar punishments would have been likely if he had carried out the same practices elsewhere, such as in the UK for example. Furthermore, it has been duly noted that stringent punishments do need to be in place in order to prevent the risks of rogue scientists taking matters into their own hands and making genetic modifications which could have long-standing consequences for the affected babies and even their future generations.

Indeed, questions have been raised over the future development of the children affected by Jiankui’s work is yet to be seen, and there is no doubt that the children born through this work, including a set of twins, are likely to be monitored in the coming years.

On this topic, Fyodor Urnov, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, told MIT Technology Review that although Jiankui had tried to recreate the CCR5 mutation already present in some human and leads to an immunity to HIV, he had in fact “created new mutations in the target gene, and apparently elsewhere in the genome, too, the consequences of which are unknown.”

What is clear is that the general consensus is that Jiankui acted prematurely and that work of this kind required far more research and preparation before it was ever practiced on human embryos. Further work needs to be conducted in the areas of standards, regulatory pathways and appropriate means of governance and these issues are being considered by the Academies Commission and by a WHO committee, who will return their findings later this year.

Real Estate Scam

The Tiny Detail That Led to a Million Dollar Real Estate Scam

Many of us would like to believe we could spot a scam from afar, especially an email scam. There are only so many people that the Prince of Nigeria can give money to!

However a multinational fraud ring were able to swindle nearly $1 million out of the CEO of an unidentified Swiss company.

“S.K.” was purchasing some beachfront property in Belize when the fraud was committed, according to a criminal complaint that was unsealed recently.

The seller had been in discussions with S.K. with the buyer already paying a deposit on the $1,020,000 property. So when S.K. received a further email from the seller’s lawyers requesting the remaining $918,000 he wired the money across to the bank account he thought was also in Belize. However the money was sent to a Citizens Bank in Boston.

The complaint states, “The lengthy email which S.K. received included lawyerly verbiage that gave it the appearance it was from the attorney in Belize. The author included information about Belize-specific regulations on the purchase of property by a foreign company. The email included the standard confidentiality notice and legal disclaimers that are commonly part of emails from attorneys. Lastly, it included a professional signature block with the attorney’s name and contact information.”

It was when the real lawyer got in contact with S.K. to query why the money had not been sent across to them that the scam was discovered.

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An investigation revealed that the email from the “lawyer” had an extra “s” in the address, meaning the fake email was “deliberately created to deceive the recipient into believing he was communicating with the seller’s attorney.”

Recent data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center shows that “CEO fraud” – or business email compromise – was responsible for a loss of over $26 billion for businesses during June 2016 and July 2019, and affected all 50 US states as well as nearly 180 countries.

In 2015 Christopher Sinclair – Mattel’s CEO – emailed an employee requesting $3 million be transferred to a new Chinese vendor. As their company policy demanded any transfers of money required approval by two upper-level managers the employee complied. However when mentioning the payment to Mr. Sinclair later he was unaware of the incident. And while the bank, police and FBI were promptly called it took a long time for the company to have their money returned.

Similarly, an unidentified US defense contractor was conned into sending sensitive military equipment worth millions of dollars to a gang of international con artists. Court filings show that some of the equipment was so top secret nobody was supposed to be aware it existed with the “highly sensitive” equipment was valued at $3.2 million.

Scammers usually create false email accounts with similar addresses to the legitimate accounts that they have hacked into and generally target employees who have access to the business’s accounts, high-level executives and sometimes celebrities.

Once the information has been removed from the hacked email accounts the scammers not only steal names, account details and information about the financial transaction, they also analyze the style and tone of the messages to ensure their fake email is plausible.

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They then email the buyer requesting the next payment be wired to a bank account they look after, with the money disappearing immediately.

Online crime has been around for many years however these scams have only been noticed in the last five years. An FBI supervisory special agent was quoted as saying, “There are always digital artifacts left behind in online scams – IP addresses used to illicitly access someone’s email, for instance – and this data is often used not only to track down individual suspects but also to make connections between schemes that may not otherwise appear to be linked.”

The stolen money from S.K. was transferred almost immediately to corporate accounts at JPMorgan Chase as well as Bank of America in Atlanta. A further $200,000 was then sent to banks in Nigeria and China while a suspect was spotted withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash at several JPMorgan Chase branches.

Investigators discovered the accounts in Atlanta had been opened by “Prince Okoli” who had also paid $10,000 into his own personal account. Surveillance photos at the Atlanta banks were compared to Okoli’s driving license and they realised they had a match. When pushed for a comment Andrew Wong, Okoli’s court-appointed lawyer – would not respond.

Although scammed consumers have limited liability with losses often covered by the financial companies involved, corporations sending money to incorrect recipients are not normally covered. When filing for Chapter 11 protection earlier this year, fashion brand Diesel USA cited cyber fraud losses as one of their reasons for bankruptcy.

There are recommendations from the FBI for companies to have protocols in place so that requests for large sums of money require strict verification, such as two-factor authentication.

They also recommend you always inspect your emails for incorrect or misspelled URLs, misspelled names or information that does not quite look right. Never give out information that could be used against you to new contacts without vetting them independently first.