Total Pageviews

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Venture Capitalists Face Another Sexual Harassment Suit

Another lawsuit is raising the issue of sexual discrimination in Silicon Valley. Three female employees have sued CMEA Capital, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco, claiming sexual harassment and retaliation.

In the case against CMEA, in Superior Court of California in San Francisco, three CMEA female administrative assistants say that John Haag, the former president and chief operating partner, “behaved in sexually and racially inappropriate ways” and that after they formally logging their complaint with CMEA in April, “management did not take reasonable steps to protect female and minority employees from Defendant Haag’s severe and pervasive harassment, and have perpetuated the problem since his departure.”

Mr. Haag has denied these claims. “John Haag looks forward to the truth coming out in the course of this lawsuit,” Marcie S. Isom of the law firm Gordon & Rees, Mr. Haag’s lawyer,  said in a statement. “Mr. Haa plans to vigorously defend himself and trusts the justice system will completely vindicate him. Because this matter is in active litigation, Mr. Haag cannot offer further comment.”

The 17-page complaint against CMEA, filed in February, contains several lurid claims. Among them: that Mr. Haag referred to one plaintiff as “dirty bird,” watched pornography at the office, and inquired about whether a plaintiff  “groomed her pubic hair.”

The three plaintiffs, Dawn-Shemain Weeks, Margaret Hines and Shannon Schlagenhauf, said that other partners at CMEA were aware of the inappropriate behavior and that at one point CMEA’s founder, Tom Baruch, called Mr. Haag a “predator” and warned the plaintiffs to stay away from him.

The plaintiffs filed a formal complaint with CMEA’s management in April. They say that a subsequent investigation by Tri-Net, an independent human resources firm, corroborated their accounts and that as a result CMEA bought out Mr. Haag’s interests in C! MEA funds and dismissed him.

After the buyout, the plaintiffs say, the firm retaliated against them by cutting their overtime pay â€" which, they say, made up more than a quarter of their salary- and increasing their workload. According to the suit, they say one partner complained that their complaint had cost CMEA “a lot of money.”

CMEA denies those claims. The firm has hired Lara Villarreal Hutner of Villarreal Hutner & Todd as its lead trial counsel. In a prepared statement, Ms. Villarreal Hutner said:

“The truth is that this lawsuit is the result of the least ‘sexy’ of its allegations: these administrative assistants’ curtailment of overtime resulting from CMEA’s commitment to excellence and efficiency. CMEA acted at all times professionally and with integrity, underscored by the fact that for the last 8 months the administrative assistants continued working for the firm, and resigned only after retaining an attorney and filing this lawsuit. While the statemets asserted in this lawsuit are salacious, CMEA is confident that the true facts supported by evidence - not others’ self-interested mudslinging - will determine the outcome of this case. As such, CMEA is fully prepared to vigorously defend itself and its reputation, and is supremely confident in its ability to prevail.”

One plaintiff, Ms. Weeks, resigned from CMEA in January, saying she was “not comfortable working in a work environment that continues to condone inappropriate sexual conduct and retaliation.” The two remaining plaintiffs, Ms. Hines and Ms. Schlagenhauf, resigned last week.

The plaintiffs have requested a jury trial but a trial date is not expected until 2014.

In January, Keith Rabois, chief operating officer at Square, a mobile payments company  based in San Francisco, resigned amid charges that he had sexually harassed a male employee. He took a job as a venture capitalist at Khosla Ventures in February.

In May, sexual discrimination charges at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers shook Silicon Valley. In that suit, Ellen Pao, a former investment partner at the firm, claims that she was harassed into a brief affair with a colleague and that her efforts to deal with the matter and other instances of unseemly behavior resulted in retaliation. Ms. Pao also claims that the firm limited the career advancement of its female employees. Kleiner denies this.

Predicting Commutes More Accurately for Would-Be Home Buyers

One of the first things people shopping for a house want to know is how agonizing the commute will be. It’s not that hard to get an idea of how bad the pain will be in this era of smartphones and apps. You can punch your work address into Google Maps while you’re standing in front of your dream house to get a ballpark estimate of how long you will spend in a car, on a bus or riding a bike to your office. A start-up called Walk Score even has a search engine that lets you find apartment listings within a selected commuting range â€" say, a half-hour by bus or 15 minutes by car.

On Tuesday, the largest real estate firm in the Pacific Northwest, Windermere, took another step toward making commuting time estimates more precise. Windermere licensed an online tool from a company called Inrix that gives those shopping for homes an hour-by-hour prediction of the drive times to their workplaces.

Windermere presents the commuting times in a chart on the detail page for each property on its site. The line on the chart indicating drive times often ends up looking like the head of a dog, with spikes during the morning and evening rush hours that look like canine ears. Windermere executives believe that presenting would-be home buyers with more precise commuting times during their initial Web searches for properties will help prevent transactions from souring later.

“If you can eliminate objections sooner in the process, it means you’re going to close the deal that much faster,” said York Baur, chief executive of Windermere Solutions, the technology arm of the real estate firm.

Inrix’s commute estimates are based on more than 100 million drivers around the world who have navigation systems in their cars that anonymously report their locati! ons and speed to Inrix. That, combined with data Inrix gets from road sensors and other sources, allows it to figure out how badly traffic is likely to slow.

It updates its drive time estimates every 90 days to reflect changing road conditions â€" for example, a major highway project that creates a commute-snarling detour for months. The company even has algorithms that weed out anomalies, like people stopping to change a spare tire, said Kevin Foreman, general manager of geoanalytics for Inrix.

Inrix’s hourly drive time estimates and those from other sources are often pretty close. Walk Score calculates the average commuting time between a block in San Francisco’s Sunset district and a building in the city’s financial district as 21 minutes, while Inrix estimates it at 22 minutes during the peak morning commute and 24 minutes during the peak evening commute.

There seems to be a bigger spread between estimates the farther the distance driven. For instance, Walk Score shows an averagedrive time of 38 minutes between an address in West Seattle and Tacoma, 34 miles apart. Inrix estimates that the morning and evening peak commutes between the same spots are typically 43 and 46 minutes each.

A difference of eight minutes in a commute is meaningful. Over the course of a year, that adds up to almost 67 extra hours of drive time.

U.N. Report Reframes Debate Over Searing Image of a Father’s Agony in Gaza

Jihad Masharawi, a Palestinian journalist who works for the BBC in Gaza, cradling the dead body of his 11-month-old son, Omar, at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 14, 2012.Majed Hamdan/Associated Press Jihad Masharawi, a Palestinian journalist who works for the BBC in Gaza, cradling the dead body of his 11-month-old son, Omar, at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 14, 2012.

As The Lede reported in November, within hours of the start of Israel’s Gaza offensive that month, images of the dead and wounded, particularly those of children, were shared widely on social networks by Israelis and Palestinians, as both communitiessought to alert the world to their grief.

Four months later, a new argument has erupted online over one of those images, a photograph that showed Jihad Masharawi, a Palestinian journalist who works for the BBC in Gaza, cradling the dead body of his 11-month-old son, Omar, at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The child, and his teenaged aunt and uncle, were killed by a bomb that dropped on the family home on Nov. 14, shortly after Israel launched Operation Pillar of Cloud with a precision-guided strike on the car of Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military commander.

As my colleague Isabel Kershner explains, a United Nations report released last week suggested that the bomb that tore apart the Masharawi family home might have been “a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel,” rather! than an Israeli strike. The cause of the boy’s death remains disputed, however, since the the U.N. report on casualties of the Gaza conflict devotes just one sentence to the finding and provides no details of the evidence on which it was based. A U.N. spokesman said that the investigators, who visited the ruined home four weeks after the incident, could not “unequivocally conclude” that a Palestinian rocket was responsible.

The spokesman, Matthias Behnke, told The Associated Press that investigators from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had concluded, based on eyewitness testimony, that Hamas rockets were fired from near the family’s home, but the area was also targeted by Israeli airstrkes.

Jon Donnison, a BBC correspondent in the region, reported that the boy’s father dismissed the findings as “rubbish,” and said that the investigators had not even spoken with him. Mr. Donnison noted in a television appearance on Tuesday that Israel’s military “had never denied carrying out the strike and, in fact, at the time was briefing journalists that it had targeted the house because it believed there was a militant in the building.” Israel’s military told my colleague in Jerusalem on Monday that it has not determined whether it hit the house or not, saying it does not have clear information about what happened.

Despite this lack of clarity, pro-Israel bloggers treated the U.N. report as definitive and immediately pressed the BBC and other news organizations to apologize for publishing a photograph of the bombed out Masharawi home ta! ken by a ! colleague of the boy’s father who wrote on Twitter that the damage was caused by “an Israeli shell.”

In response, at least pro-Palestinian blogger noted that the single sentence in the U.N. report on the family includes an obvious factual error. The report said the bombing killed “a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult.” In fact, the child’s mother was present at his funeral the following day. As Jihad Masharawi himself explained on the night of the bombing, in a wrenching interview with the BBC while cradling his dead son in his arms, the explosion had killed his sister-in-law and badly wounded his brother.

The month after the deadly bombing, the Guardian correspondent Harriet Sherwood visited Jihad Masharawi in Gaza and reported that “his brother Ahmed, 18, died after 12 days in intensive care with burns to 85 percent of his body.”

According to Ms. Sherwood report, the bereaved father told her that he was baffled that Islamist militants claimed to have won the battle with Israel. “Hamas think they were heroes, with a great victory,” he said, “I don’t know how they can talk about victory. There will be another escalation for sure. Like everyone here, I’m not expecting a long period of quiet. My child was killed, and nothing on the ground has changed. No one achieved anything. Families lost children and loved ones. How c! an this b! e a victory”

While most partisans seized on the single sentence about the Masharawi family in the U.N. report, the 17-page document (embedded below), contains details of many other deaths, and clear condemnation of both Israel’s military and Hamas for their conduct of the battle.

Human Rights Council Report on 2012 Gaza Casualties

The report, which was prepared to inform the body’s rights council about the “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,” begins with the following breakdown of the 180 people who were killed in the fighting:

During the crisis, 174 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. At least 168 of them were killed by Israeli military action, of whom 101 are believed to be civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. Hundreds of persons were injured.4 Six civilians, including one woman and three children, may have been killed by rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups that landed in Gaza. In the context of the crisis, six Israelis, including four civilians, were reportedly killed, an! d 239 Isr! aelis, including 219 civilians, were reportedly injured.

The investigators go on to condemn both sides in clear terms. In a section on the deaths apparently caused by Israel Defense Forces, the authors wrote:

In a number of cases, civilians who happened to be present in or passing through open areas and fields, locations that could potentially be used for rocket launches, were killed. The cases mentioned below raise the question of whether the IDF took all feasible measures to verify that their targets were military objectives, in line with the principle of distinction under international humanitarian law, which requires that the parties to a conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants. Under international human rights law these cases may constitute violations of the right to life.

On 19 November, a father, his 12-year-old daughter, and his 19-year-old son were allegedly killed by a drone missile while collecting spearmint in a farm adjcent to their house in Ahmad Yassin Street, north of Gaza City. Information collected by OHCHR indicates that the victims were farmers. In a similar case, on 21 November, an 84-year-old man working on his olive farm and his 14-year-old granddaughter were killed by a missile that landed in their farm, east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip.

In their description of the findings on deaths apparently caused by Palestinian militants, the authors reported:

In one incident that took place on 15 November, three Israeli civilians, including a woman, were killed when a Palestinian rocket hit an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi, a town in Israel’s southern district…. An estimated 80 Israeli houses were either destroyed or sustained damages as a result of Palestinian rocket attacks during the crisis.

While some projectiles were directed at military objectives, many, if not the vast majority of the Palestinian attacks on Israel constituted indiscriminate attac! ks. Such ! attacks violate international humanitarian law. Most rockets fired by the armed groups did not seem to be directed at a specific military objective. Furthermore, many Palestinian armed groups directly and indirectly indicated their determination to - and took responsibility for - attacks on Israeli civilians or large population centers in Israel. Such acts clearly violate international humanitarian law, namely the principle of distinction.

In addition, such acts could also have the aim of spreading terror among the civilian population, which would further violate international humanitarian law. While certain Palestinian armed actors cited the limits of their military arsenals as a reason for failing to precisely attack military targets, the military capacity of the conflicting parties is irrelevant to their duty, under international humanitarian law, to take all feasible measures to avoid loss among civilians and damage to civilian property.

Live Video: Waiting for a Pope

Live Video: From outside the papal conclave in Vatican City.
.liveVideoTextLabel {font-family:Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; color:#A81817; font-weight:bold; text-transform:uppercase;} #liveVideoCaptionText {font-size:9pt; padding:8px 0; border-bottom:1px #ccc solid;}

Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church entered the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday and began the process of selecting a new pope.

As expected, black smoke rose, indicating there was no pope elected. Rarely is a pope chosen after the first round of voting. Only one round of balloting is provided for on the first day of a conclave.

Read More: Graphic: Inside the Conclave

Q. and A. on the Papal Conclave

Eye-Tracking Tech Will Be Open to iPhones and Other Devices

Samsung Electronics won’t be the only company that gets a fancy eye-tracking feature. A start-up company called uMoove, which has been developing this type of technology for three years, says it will offer eye- and head-tracking to anyone, including device makers like Apple and software developers who make mobile apps.

Based in Israel, has been working on a technology for smartphones and tablets to track eye and head movements using a device’s front-facing camera. It said on Tuesday that very soon it would offer a software tool kit to apply its technology to applications.

Moti Krispil, a founder and chief executive of uMoove, said in an interview that it was crucial that eye- and head-tracking technology be made available to any type of mobile product because it needs the support of thousands of software developers to create a real impact on the way people interact with devices Initially, the uMoove tool kit will work with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android software systems, he said. If the feature were limited to just one phone, like the next Samsung phone, its potential would be stifled, he said.

“We made a very important decision that the technology is so diverse that we cannot just allow it to be confined,” he said. He said uMoove would release its tool kit in a few months. On Tuesday, it started allowing people to register for its software tool kit on its Web site.

Applications using eye- and head-tracking can transform the way people use their devices to do things like browse the Web, play games and read books. The technology was initially developed to assist disabled persons, Mr. Krispil said. The idea formed around one of the start-up’s founders, who has a relative who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that eventually causes paralysis, making it impossible for a person to use today’s mobile devices.

UMoove’s technology uses a front-facing camera to track head and eye movements, either separately or in combination. The technique can be used even with the low-resolution cameras found on cheap cellphones, Mr. Krispin said. Head tilts can control scrolling, and eye movements can control more precise actions like drawing shapes; staring at an object on the screen for a few seconds can select it. Another potential action is a head nod to hit “O.K.” to answer a command prompt.

Mr. Krispil said the start-up has been collaborating with large device manufacturers for several months, but he would not name the companies because of nondisclosure agreements. I reported last week that a Samsung employee who had tried the phone said that the next Galaxy phone’s most interesting feature was its ability to scroll based on where the user looks. Mr. Krispil could not confirm whether Samsung’snext Galaxy smartphone, to be introduced on Thursday in New York, would use uMoove’s technology.

UMoove has 20 employees and received $2 million in financing last year from a company that Mr. Krispil would not name because the partnership had not yet been made public. The company’s four founders invested $800,000 to start the business in 2010, he said.