Captain Rick: The option to hail a ride in a self-driving car, which was science fiction just a few years ago, will soon be available to Uber users in Pittsburgh, the first time the technology has been offered to the general public. Within weeks customers will be able to opt into a test program and summon an autonomous Ford Fusion. But since the technology has not been perfected, the cars will come with human backup drivers to handle any unexpected situations.

Eventually there will come a day when driverless cars become common place and will be much safer than the large percentage of todays cars with idiots behind the wheel, texting and doing everything but paying attention to driving, including those driving under the influence. I would feel much safer having cars around me that pack a million dollars worth of technology watching the road and controlling the vehicle, than ones driven by idiots not watching the road at all.

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Uber has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh. Uber-branded test cars have been on Pittsburgh roads for several months. Other companies including Google are testing self-driving cars on public roads, but  none offers rides to regular people. As an enticement, the autonomous rides will be free. If I lived in Pittsburgh, I would be one of its first riders.

It will be a few years before autonomous cars will acquire a license to drive on their own. This is a way to get autonomous cars out there and become accepted on the roadways. New technology begins somewhere. Pittsburgh is one of those places and Uber is an innovative, driving force. The real breakthrough for autonomous cars will happen when a company puts one on public roads without a backup human. For now, like a motorcycle canyon jumper with a safety net, Uber isn’t ready to take the big leap … but perhaps one day soon it will be.

Captain Rick: The U.S. Trade Deficit widened to $44.5 billion in June, significantly passing economist’s guess of $43.1 billion and 8.7 percent higher than a revised May deficit of $41 billion. This represents an annual rate of $534 billion. That means nearly a half trillion dollars earned by Americans each year are floating to places like China and Mexico to support their economy and GDP instead of America’s.
 
The U.S. trade deficit is caused by many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is because of poor trade deals like NAFTA, which send billions of dollars to Mexico each year to feed their economy, instead of adding to the U.S. economy. The last thing America needs is Obama’s TPP trade deal, which resembles NAFTA on steroids. Another big reason is because of U.S. labor unions, which push for higher wages and benefits for members, with the notorious outcome of forcing American companies to shut down manufacturing in the U.S. and move it to places like China and Mexico to reduce labor expense and increase profit. 

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Photo: U.S. President Obama and Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. Perhaps they are shaking hands on how well China is benefiting from current trade deals between the U.S. and China … at the expense of America.

Captain Rick: I want to share excellent journalism from a fellow journalist on WordPress. Its about ‘Brexit’ and the European Union.

Jonathan Fenton-Harvey

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Many of those lauding the European Union do still manage to find fault with it. This can be from its treatment of Greece, to the crony corporatism that flourishes within its protection. Yet these profoundly detrimental attributes will be ignored by those who want to remain; instead, they will focus on heaping praise onto how important the EU is in that it unites us, promotes peace, and prevents a possible war.

Yet to see through this grave misconception, consider the concept of the European Union for a minute. The name itself speaks volumes: ‘European Union’. When broken down, it’s essentially a body that encloses the European nations together, forces them to integrate, and unites the people within it.

Clearly yes, it does unite Europe. But what of the rest of the world?

Think about the situation with Russia. The EU has recently announced that it will place further sanctions on…

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Captain Rick: Having loved photography my entire life, an awarded Webshots photographer in the early 2000s, I became a Flickr PRO member shortly after its acquisition by Yahoo in 2005.

Flickr grew to become the one of the largest and best quality photo sites on the internet with over 12 billion photos and 100 million dedicated users.

The telecommunications giant Verizon announced that it will spend $4.8 billion to acquire Yahoo’s operating business, including popular online content such as Yahoo, Flickr and Tumblr.

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Verizon hopes that by pairing Yahoo with AOL, which Verizon bought in May 2015 for $4.4 billion, that the result will be a digital media unit that could compete with Google and Facebook. Having followed so many of these wild internet company purchases during the past decade or so, I have serious doubts that Verizon will be able to make that happen.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, a former Google exec, was hired in 2012 to turn things around at financially struggling Yahoo. Flickr’s core users were hopeful that it might get the attention it deserved. She allowed Yahoo to loose focus on Flickr, allowing the top site for photographers to slip in quality and innovation. Yahoo was desperately trying to appeal to the Instagram generation, and in doing so started to alienate Flickr’s core users, many of whom were professional photographers. As a Flickr Pro member, I often gave feedback … but it felt like no one was listening. Things would break and it would take eight to 10 months before someone would respond. We were members paying money for a service that wasn’t working. It was insulting to me and other photographers who had been using Flickr so actively for so many years. We were clearly not the target audience any more.

Marissa Mayer generated controversy in 2013 for saying “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore,” when explaining why Flickr was phasing out its Pro membership at the time. As a Flickr Pro member for a decade, I protested loudly as did millions of other Pro members. She quickly apologized for the statement. Us Flickr Pro members saw it as extreme ignorance on her part. Flickr drew more flack the following year by putting 50 million Creative Commons licensed photos by users up for sale through its new Wall Art service. Although it was within its rights to do based on the licensing, the move left a bad taste in photographers’ mouths, and Flickr pulled the plug on the arrangement the next month.

Amid dwindling share of only 1.3% of a growing $187 billion global digital market, the best she was able to do is put Yahoo up for sale. Mayer will help in the transition, but it is not known if she will remain as a Verizon employee. I think that in view of her high salary and lack-luster performance of Yahoo and neglect of Flickr, it would be in Verizon’s best interest to let her go.

Yahoo, Flickr and Tumblr are set to officially become Verizon properties when the deal closes in early 2017, assuming anticipated government approvals occur.

My fear is that Verizon, being a giant in the mobile phone market, cares little about quality photography and photographers. I think Verizon will sell Flickr or perhaps just let it die as an expense it can write off. As a Flickr Pro member who has invested many hundreds of hours into building and supporting my Flickr Photostream and several high quality photo groups, I am deeply saddened by that thought. On the other hand, it is my hope that Verizon will realize the great photographic jewel that it will possess in Flickr and find a way to breathe new life back into it. If executed with excellence, Flickr will remain the top site for quality among serious photographers … like me.

Captain Rick: Donald Trump emerged from what the news media called a ‘joke’ a year ago, beating out 16 primary opponents to head the 2016 Republican Party ticket for President of the United States.

Trump’s drive was historic. He received a record high Republican delegate count and primary voter turnout. He is the first person to win a major party nomination without having previously held public office since Dwight Eisenhower. Trump created a movement in American politics, transforming a ‘nearly dead’ GOP into a party with new vibrancy that appeals to many more voters, including many independents and even democrats.

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Photo: Donald J. Trump accepts nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland Ohio on July 21, 2016.

Ivanka Trump (Executive VP of the Trump Organization) introduced her father, softening his image, saying that he is color-blind and gender-neutral.

Donald Trump said he ‘humbly and gratefully’ accepts the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. "We will lead our country back to safety, prosperity and peace."

He pledged to be a voice for working Americans who have been let down by government and that the elites who have run it. "So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you."

He said he will restore law and order in America the day he takes office on January 2017. "Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life," he said. "Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country."

He said the American political system is “rigged”. "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it," Trump said. 

Trump’s address was the most crucial moment yet in his transformation, from a brash tycoon and reality star to a presidential nominee with an expansive vision of disruptive change. The speech clocked in at 1 hour 15 minutes, surpassing Bill Clinton’s 1992 marathon and longest since 1972.

Captain Rick: I discovered a great commentary by a fellow WordPress journalist that offers a fresh and intelligent perspective of the growing friendship between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. While Obama’s support for Israel is waning, Israel is looking to Russia for increased security and its ability to act as a peacekeeper with Iran, which Russia has close ties with. Atridim News Journal has long viewed Vladimir Putin as one of the most intelligent leaders of the world. The commentary makes it apparent that Benjamin Netanyahu realizes that intelligence. I hope that the ‘Washington Clowns’ in DC and the news media start getting the real message and stop the ‘Putin Bashing’. I hope to see a future President Donald Trump become friends with Vladimir Putin and stop the Cold War that is rapidly growing between the U.S. and Russia. Ronald Reagan, who helped bring down the Berlin Wall, would love to see the Cold War replaced with peace and friendship between the two superpowers. I am pleased to reblog this excellent journalism by Jonathan Fenton-Harvey.

Jonathan Fenton-Harvey

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For the third time in less than a year, Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin met face to face this week. Quite noteworthy, if one considers that Mr Netanyahu and Barack Obama have only met once in the same period. Nonetheless, both leaders engaged in a high-spirited encounter; the Washington Post even labelled the meeting as a ‘Bromance’. These negotiations were vital not just for Israel’s future, but for the stability of the Middle East.

Pressing issues were discussed between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Putin. Among them were the Israel-Palestine dispute, Israel’s counter-terrorism concerns – especially regarding Hezbollah, and economic ties between Russia and Israel.

No doubt this will bring a sigh of relief to many. After all, fears of a conflict intensified in April, when Israeli and Russian air-forces reportedly almost clashed over the disputed Golan Heights. This threat has evaporated. And with Israel still being a somewhat stranded nation…

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Captain Rick : Every Christmas my Gilbert Arizona Oasis bursts with thousands of lights. In 2015 I installed Holiday Brilliant light controllers that made 8000 lights sequence and dance to a playlist of music beaming from a digital music box. I captured a video of the lights dancing to ‘Deck the Halls’ Dixieland style in Full 1080p HD video with stereo sound using my new LUMIX 16 megapixel camera.

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Click the image above to view the video in Full 1080p HD with stereo sound      via Captain Rick’s Flickr Site.

Light rings and bands of red, white and blue sequence and dance up and down, back and forth in time to the music, including the giant red, white and blue dancing ‘2015’ in the palo verde tree.

3 weeks are required to install the lights and a week to take them down. A quarter mile of cords are used to hook up all of the circuits.  A dedicated 15 amp circuit runs at full capacity to supply power to illuminate all of the lights.

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Photography by Atridim

Captain Rick’s Christmas Lights Spectacular YouTube Playlist