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Mexico’s Hotel California Owners Reject the Eagles’ Trademark Claims

The owners of a Mexican hotel using the name Hotel California on Wednesday said a trademark infringement lawsuit by the Eagles, whose song “Hotel California” is arguably the band’s most famous, should be dismissed.

Hotel California Baja LLC, which runs the Todos Santos hotel in Baja California Sur, said the band long ago waived its trademark rights, having waited four decades to assert them since releasing the song “Hotel California” on a 1976 album with the same name.

The owner said it “flatly denies” the Eagles’ “baseless contention” that the 11-room hotel seeks to mislead travelers into thinking the property is associated with the band.

“Any alleged use of plaintiff’s trademarks is not likely to cause confusion, deception or mistake as to association, connection, sponsorship, endorsement, or approval of plaintiff,” the owner said in a filing in Los Angeles federal court.

Lawyers for the Eagles were not immediately available for comment.

In their May 1 lawsuit, the Eagles said the defendant encourages guests to believe their hotel is associated with the band, including piping its music through a sound system, to sell T-shirts and other merchandise.

The hotel is located about 1,000 miles (1,609 km) south of San Diego and 48 miles (77 km) north of Cabo San Lucas.

It was named Hotel California at its 1950 opening, underwent some name changes, and later revived the original name after a Canadian couple, John and Debbie Stewart, bought it in 2001.

U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner scheduled a conference in the case for Aug. 21.

The album “Hotel California,” won the 1977 Grammy Award for record of the year.

The case is Eagles Ltd v Hotel California Baja LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 17-03276.

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Silicon Valley & Technology
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Nest Security Camera Knows Who’s Home with Google Face Tech

Nest Labs is adding Google’s facial recognition technology to a high-resolution home-security camera, offering a glimpse of a future in which increasingly intelligent, internet-connected computers can see and understand what’s going on in people’s homes.

The Nest Cam IQ, unveiled Wednesday, will be Nest’s first device to draw upon the same human-like skills that Google has been programming into its computers — for instance, to identify people in images via its widely used photo app. Facebook deploys similar technology to automatically recognize and recommend tags of people in photos posted on its social network.

Nest can tap into Google’s expertise in artificial intelligence because both companies are owned by the same parent company, Alphabet Inc.

With the new feature, you could program the camera to recognize a child, friend or neighbor, after which it will send you notifications about that person being in the home.

Nest isn’t saying much about other potential uses down the road, though one can imagine the camera recognizing when grandparents are visiting and notifying Nest’s internet-connected thermostat to adjust the temperature to what they prefer. Or it might be trained to keep a close eye on the kids when they are home after school to monitor their activities and send alerts when they’re doing something besides a list of approved activities.

The cost of facial recognition

The new camera will begin shipping in late June for almost $300. You’ll also have to pay $10 a month for a plan that includes facial recognition technology. The same plan will also include other features, such as alerts generated by particular sounds — barking dogs, say — that occur out of the camera’s visual range.

The camera will only identify people you select through Nest’s app for iPhones and Android devices. It won’t try to recognize anyone that an owner hasn’t tagged. Even if a Nest Cam IQ video spies a burglar in a home, law enforcement officials will have to identify the suspect through their own investigation and analysis, according to Nest.

Privacy concerns

Facial recognition is becoming more common on home-security cameras. Netatmo, for instance, introduced a security camera touting a similar facial recognition system in 2015. That camera sells for about $200, or $100 less than the Nest Cam IQ.

The way that the Nest and Netatmo cameras are being used doesn’t raise serious privacy concerns because they are only verifying familiar faces, not those of complete strangers, said Jennifer Lynch, who specializes in biometrics as a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital advocacy group.

But Lynch believes privacy issues are bound to crop up as the resolution and zoom capabilities of home security cameras improve, and as engineers develop more sophisticated ways of identifying people even when an image is moving or only a part of a face is visible. Storing home-security videos in remote data centers also raises security concerns about the imagery being stolen by computer hackers. “It definitely could become a slippery slope,” Lynch said.

The privacy issues already are thorny enough that Nest decided against offering the facial recognition technology in Illinois, where state law forbids the collection and retention of an individual’s biometric information without prior notification and written permission.

Further details

Nest’s $10-a-month subscription includes video storage for 10 days. Video can be stored up to 30 days with an upgrade to a subscription plan costing $30 per month.

The high-end camera supplements lower-resolution indoor and outdoor cameras that Nest will continue to sell for almost $200. Neither of the lower-end cameras is equipped for facial recognition.

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Economy & business
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From Home Help to Driver, New Class of Indian Homeowner

When Rajnish Dhall’s driver wanted to borrow money to buy a home, Dhall suggested he go to a bank. But without proof of income or tax returns to show his credentials, the driver said no bank would lend to him.

It was the start of a whole new business for Dhall, a former banker whose firm aims to help the hundreds of millions of informal workers who make up the bulk of India’s labor force.

They are the newly emerging home-owning class.

“My driver was earning a steady income and could have paid back the loan easily, yet none of the banks would lend to him because he didn’t have the necessary paperwork,” Dhall told Reuters. “The housing problem is very real and visible, especially in a city like Mumbai. There is certainly aspiration to own a home, but without finance, there is no way to realize the aspiration.”

Dhall lent his driver the money, then looked more closely at home loans for a host of other workers in the informal sector.

Of India’s 470 million-strong workforce, about 90 percent is in the informal sector. They include domestic help, street vendors, daily wage earners and small business operators, who may have no collateral and whose incomes are irregular.

They have few options besides borrowing from money lenders and employers, Dhall found. So he set up Micro Housing Finance Corp. to give home loans to low-income and informal workers.

Housing for all

More homes are desperately needed.

Already, one in three Indians live in cities, many in crowded slums and other informal settlements. Every year, tens of thousands of villagers migrate to cities in search of jobs, and the pace of urbanization is set to rise.

India has a shortage of about 20 million urban homes; the shortfall disproportionately affects families earning less than 16,000 rupees ($248) a month, according to consultancy KPMG.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made affordable housing a priority, offering incentives such as subsidized loans to meet a 2022 target of “Housing for All,” even as critics say the plan bypasses the homeless.

The government plan aims to create 20 million new urban homes and 30 million rural homes.

An affordable home is typically about 250 square feet (23 square meters) in size, and can cost up to 1.2 million rupees ($18,600). It is aimed at families earning 8,000-25,000 rupees a month, and is usually located in the outskirts of the city where land is cheaper.

In recent years, developers including the Tata group, Mahindra and TVS group have entered the affordable housing market, enticed by government incentives and future potential.

These big firms have enhanced the quality and reputation of affordable homes, which were once described as “vertical slums.”

About 15 micro home finance companies have also launched, with reputable builders and more ready finance combining for better results for low-income earners.

Increasingly, it is a choice between “owning a good-quality, formal home in the periphery of the city over a badly made or informal home in the city,” said Vikram Jain, director of social consultancy FSG, which has studied the segment.

“With more developers and better access to finance, they are well designed, quality constructions that residents take pride in owning,” he told Reuters.

From chalk to pigeons

India’s micro housing finance companies have a loan portfolio of more than $160 million, with near-zero defaults, Jain estimates.

But micro home loans of up to 1 million rupees for low-income clients only account for a quarter of home loans.

Micro home finance companies lend up to 90 percent of the value of the property, at slightly higher interest rates of about 13 percent, on average. The repayment term can be up to 25 years.

Since its founding, MHFC has dispensed about 14,000 home loans, Dhall said.

Its customers represent 600 diverse professions — from a man selling grains to feed pigeons, to one making marking chalk for tailors, and a grass seller for people with cows at home.

At Aadhar Housing Finance — owned in part by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation — more than three-quarters of customers did not have a credit history when they asked for a loan, said Chief Executive Deo Shankar Tripathi.

Aadhar has given more than 50,000 home loans, mostly in India’s poorest states where customers typically buy a plot of land and build a modest home, Tripathi said.

The high cost of land needed to build homes can be a challenge to affordable housing. Rising construction costs and limited financing for developers are other constraints.

But Tripathi said nobody should be deterred.

“Owning a home is a dream for everyone. For the low-income segment, a home means security, empowerment and greater inclusion in society,” Tripathi said.

“We cannot give them a big bungalow like Mukesh Ambani’s [India’s wealthiest man], but we can make a decent home within the reach of everyone,” he said.

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Arts & Entertainment
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Tennis: Venus Stellar in Paris with Straight Sets Win Over Japan’s Nara

With superstar sister Serena away pregnant, it was left to 36-year-old Venus to carry the standard for the Williams family at Roland Garros on Wednesday, with a second-round thumping of Japan’s Kurumi Nara.

Seeded 10th here, Williams ground her Japanese opponent into the red Parisian dust in a contest that at times almost veered into miss-match territory before ending 6-3, 6-1.

Williams never appeared extended on the Philippe Chatrier court, but she nevertheless delivered a display of exquisite shot-making to a crowd denied a real contest.

Punching her black and lime-green racquet through the ball, Williams cleaned the lines with her groundstrokes, sending Nara scampering all round the arena.

“You know, it’s always a joy when you can control the match,” she smiled afterwards. “That always feels good.”

The win makes her the oldest woman to reach the third round at the French Open since Billie-Jean King in 1982.

Next up is either Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp or Belgian Elise Mertens.

“I don’t think I have played either in singles, so it will be interesting to, like, see how that ball is coming at me,” she mused. “I just want to win, so whoever I play, I just would like to win that match. That’s how you have to be is greedy.”

It is Venus’s 20th attempt at winning this title, and time may be running out for her, and for tennis fans to enjoy her languid shot-play.

She came closest in 2002 when she was beaten in the final by her younger sister, as she was at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that year.

There is no Serena standing in her way here, but plenty of younger guns are eager for a notable victory.

Serena for one, though, is in her corner.

“Yeah, she said, ‘Good job’. She came in sometime during the match. I don’t know exactly when. She knows exactly what it’s like out there, and she’s had a lot of success here. If she stays here through the end, I would like that.”

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Science & Health
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NASA Spacecraft Will Aim Straight for Sun Next Year

The United States space agency NASA says it will launch a mission next year to send a spacecraft directly into the sun’s atmosphere.

NASA announced the plan at the University of Chicago Wednesday during a ceremony to honor astrophysicist Eugene Parker, whom the Parker Solar Probe is named after.

The probe will gather data on solar activity and give us a better idea of how space-weather events can impact life of Earth.

It will orbit within four million miles of the sun’s surface, about eight times closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever flown. It will need to withstand heat and radiation no human could endure.

“Parker Solar Probe is going to answer questions about solar physics that we’ve puzzled over for more than six decades,” said mission scientist Nicola Fox.

“It’s a spacecraft loaded with technological breakthroughs that will solve many of the largest mysteries about our star, including finding out why the sun’s corona is so much hotter than its surface.”

Parker was the first scientist to study the phenomenon now known as solar wind and his research changed the way scientists understand the way stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.

WATCH: Parker on solar probe

Solar winds are made of charged gases emanating from the sun. Those winds eventually flow past the Earth at around 1.6 million kilometers per hour and scientists believe they have the capability to cause serious damage to the planet.

At its closest point to the sun, the spacecraft’s 12-centimeter-thick solar shields will need to withstand temperatures of 1300 degrees Celsius.

The probe is on track to launch in August 2018 and is scheduled to last until June 2025.

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Science & Health
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Czech Republic Enforces Smoking Ban After Years of Debate

The Czech Republic on Wednesday enforced a smoking ban in bars, restaurants and cafes, putting to an end to the country’s status as one of the last havens for tobacco smokers in Europe.

The ban, which applies to inside areas of bars and restaurants as well as public places like cinemas, theaters and sports venues, was approved by Parliament following years of heated debate and signed by President Milos Zeman, a chain smoker.

Unlike most of Europe, Czechs had remained tolerant of smoking up until now — and it was up to restaurant owners to decide whether to allow it in their establishments.

According to data from the European Union, 17 member states have comprehensive smoke-free laws in place. But some, including Austria, Portugal, Romania and Serbia, only have partial bans on indoor smoking in restaurants and bars.

Others, like Greece, have official bans but the rules are flouted — even by government ministers.

After the Czech ban, Slovakia appeared to be the only EU country left with no official ban in place inside bars.

The Czech Health Ministry said it estimated 18,000 Czechs die of smoking every year and another two thousand non-smokers die due to exposure to second-hand smoke.

From Wednesday, which is World No Tobacco Day, violating the ban would incur a fine of up to 5,000 koruna ($190).

Most Czechs approve the ban, but a group of lawmakers have challenged it at the Constitutional Court.

Jakub Storek, owner of the Cafe Liberal in Prague — a popular hangout among local smokers — said he opposed the ban.

“It’s hard to predict the impact at the moment,” he said. “But I guess it would be different clients coming here in the future.”

Stepan Ourecky said he would still come, but may have a smoke outside the cafe.

“Or perhaps, I will smoke less,” the 18-year-old student said.

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Science & Health
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Study: China Struggles to Kick World-Leading Cigarette Habit

Most smokers in China, the world’s largest tobacco consumer, have no intention of kicking the habit and remain unaware of some of its most damaging health effects, Chinese health officials and outside researchers said Wednesday.

An estimated 316 million people smoke in China, almost a quarter of the population, and concerns are growing about the long-term effects on public health and the economy.

 

The vast majority of smokers are men, of whom 59 percent told surveyors that they have no plans to quit, according to a decade-long study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Canadian researchers with the International Tobacco Control project.

 

Such numbers have prompted efforts to restrict the formerly ubiquitous practice. Major cities including Beijing and Shanghai having recently moved to ban public smoking, with Shanghai’s prohibition going into effect in March. In 2015, the central government approved a modest nationwide cigarette tax increase.

But Chinese and international health officials argue that more is needed, including a nationwide public smoking ban, higher cigarette taxes and more aggressive health warnings. Such actions are “critically important,” Yuan Jiang, director of tobacco control for the Chinese Center for Disease Control, said in a statement released with Wednesday’s study.

 

A public smoking ban appeared imminent last year. The government health ministry said in December that it would happen by the end of 2016, but that has yet to materialize.

 

“They have to figure out what’s important as a health policy,” said Geoffrey Fong of Canada’s University of Waterloo, one of the authors of Wednesday’s study. “Every third man that you pass on the street in China will die of cigarettes. …When you have cheap cigarettes, people will smoke them.”

 

In line with global trends, smoking rates among Chinese have fallen slowly over the past 25 years, by about 1 percent annually among men and 2.6 percent among women, according to a separate study published in April in the medical journal The Lancet.

 

Yet because of China’s population growth — 1.37 billion people at last count — the actual number of smokers has continued to increase. Rising prosperity means cigarettes have become more affordable, while low taxes keep the cost of some brands at less than $1 a pack.

 

Sixty percent of Chinese smokers were unaware that cigarettes can lead to strokes and almost 40 percent weren’t aware that smoking causes heart disease, according to the study, which was released on World No Tobacco Day, when the World Health Organization and others highlight health risks associated with tobacco use.

 

Judith Mackay, an anti-tobacco advocate based in Hong Kong, said China has made strides with the public smoking bans in some cities and a similar ban covering schools and universities, but that’s not enough.

 

“This is the first time there has been a report looking at the overall picture of where China stands,” said Mackay, senior adviser at Vital Strategies, a global health organization. “The reality is, it’s falling behind.”

 

Mackay blamed behind the scenes lobbying by China’s state-owned tobacco monopoly for impeding efforts to toughen tobacco policies. The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Government agencies and research institutes in China, Canada and the United States funded the study.

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Arts & Entertainment
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Trump Admonishes Comedian Kathy Griffin for Posting Gruesome Mock Image of Him

U.S. President Donald Trump admonished comedian Kathy Griffin Wednesday for appearing in a brief video holding a reproduction of a severed, bloody head that resembled the president.

In an early morning tweet, Trump said the image is disturbing – particularly to his children.

After seeing negative online reaction, Griffin apologized Tuesday night — saying she “moved the line” and then “crossed it.”

Griffin had shared the image in a tweet that has since been deleted at Griffin’s request.

The photo was taken by Tyler Shields, whose own biography notes he has evolved from Hollywood’s “bad boy of photography.”

The criticism came from liberals and conservatives alike, including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and daughter of 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Chelsea Clinton, who called the image “vile and wrong.”

The CNN news channel, which has featured Griffin as a co-host on its New Year’s Eve coverage, said the picture was “disgusting and offensive.”

The cable news network said in a statement it is “evaluating our New Year’s coverage.”

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