(Reuters) — The back-up safety driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber test vehicle that struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018 was charged with negligent homicide, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Rafael Vasquez, age 46, who is also known as Rafaela, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday after being charged in the death of Elaine Herzberg on Aug. 27, court records show. She was released pending trial set for February 2021.
Herzberg died after she was struck while walking a bicycle across a street at night. The first recorded death involving a self-driving vehicle prompted significant safety concerns about the nascent autonomous vehicle industry.
Uber declined comment. A lawyer for Vasquez did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
A Tempe police report said Vasquez was repeatedly looking down instead of keeping her eyes on the road. Prosecutors in March 2019 said Uber was not criminally liable in the crash.
“Distracted driving is an issue of great importance in our community,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. “When a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they have a responsibility to control and operate that vehicle safely.”
Police said previously the crash was “entirely avoidable” and that Vasquez was streaming “The Voice” TV program at the time of the crash.
In November, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) faulted Vasquez’s inactions and Uber for inadequate attention to safety and decisions in the company’s autonomous vehicle development.
The NTSB said the probable cause was Vasquez’s failure to monitor the driving environment “because she was visually distracted throughout the trip by her personal cell phone.” She was supposed to act in the event of an emergency.
Uber made a series of development decisions that contributed to the crash’s cause, the NTSB said. The software in the modified Volvo XC90 did not properly identify Herzberg as a pedestrian and did not address “operators’ automation complacency.”
Uber deactivated the automatic emergency braking systems in the Volvo XC90 vehicle and precluded the use of immediate emergency braking, relying instead on the back-up driver.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Stephen Coates)
State ballot measures to legalize cannabis add $9B to U.S. market: RPT
John Kagia, New Frontier Data Cheif Knowledge Officer, joins Yahoo Finance’s Zach Guzman to discuss the cannabis outlook amid COVID-19 and the 2020 Presidential election.
ZACK GUZMAN: Cannabis enthusiasts will have to wait a little bit more here to see discussions about legalizing at the federal level take place in the House. A vote was originally scheduled for the Moore Act, which would move to legalize cannabis at the federal level as well as expunge some criminal records for people tied to cannabis offenses.
It’s mostly a symbolic vote, though. As– as the Senate remains Republican-controlled, not a lot of expectations for that to move past Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But states themselves have quite a bit of power here to grow the US legal cannabis market. Five states in particular will let voters decide on that this November.
And one firm watching this play out says that it could add a total of $9 billion to the US cannabis market, and here to chat that with us is New Frontier Data’s Chief Knowledge Officer, the man behind the report, John Kagia joins us now. And, John, it’s good to be chatting with you again. I mean, $9 billion is a lot of money to boost here to the market size of cannabis here in the US. Talk to me about what you’re expecting should these ballot measures get voter approval.
JOHN KAGIA: So I think there’s a couple of reasons why we think this is going to be such a consequential year for cannabis in the US. One, you know, the– the fact that we have five states on the ballot, six that– six initiatives that are going to be voted on this November, makes this a pretty milestone year in terms of voters getting a voice in the status of cannabis in our society.
And there’s a couple of states which we’re paying particularly close attention to. We think Arizona’s adult use initiative is particularly important. You know, Arizona tried four years ago to legalize adult use. The vote lost by 2%– by 2 percentage points, and so this is going to be a return to the ballot. And with the demographic changes that we’ve seen in the state, the poll is actually looking better for legalization this year.
Second is New Jersey. New Jersey is going to be a phenomenally consequential market for the East Coast. If you think about the proximity of the state to New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other mid-Atlantic states, we think in and of itself New Jersey is going to be a huge market. But once you add in that regional element to it, the state could be earning, you know, nearly $2 billion, $1.8 billion by 2025. So a huge market and a huge marker for the East Coast.
And then a third state that I think is interesting to watch because we’ve never seen this happen before is South Dakota, which is the first state that we have seen that is putting on the ballot both a medical and an adult use legalization initiative at the same time.
And what that tells us is, while we have historically seen pretty long lags between the presentation of a medical measure and then that state transitioning to adult use, South Dakota is the first state which is trying to do both of those at once. And I think it just reflects this kind of growing momentum social acceptance and public shift in attitudes that we’re seeing around this issue.
ZACK GUZMAN: It’s also a red state and a pretty confidently put red state. I mean, we’ve seen that state go red– you know, you can go back a long time, decades we’re talking here in terms of how red South Dakota is. But, I mean, talk to me about maybe how that represents the shift here in cannabis as well.
Because in– in this pandemic, we’ve heard from a number of analysts talking about how states are desperate to make up revenue, lost revenue, and how cannabis in a lot of these states would– would represent a pretty big opportunity here to bring that in. I mean, how much does that pressure along with a lot of the criminal justice reform aspects we’ve been discussing here in 2020, when you put those two things together, talk to me about the momentum that you’ve seen play out over the last couple of years on that front.
JOHN KAGIA: That’s a great question, and I think a really important part in understanding why we’re seeing these dramatic shifts. So historically, cannabis has been viewed as a largely liberal issue. So you saw legalization happen first in the Western states, which have historically been blue, and then in the Northeast, which is also historically a blue region.
But what’s notable about this election cycle is we’re starting to see– or we’re continuing to see this momentum building within traditionally historically conservative states, whether that’s Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, and South Dakota. And it’s that convergence, one, the– the general’s public’s acceptance now that medical cannabis is broadly perceived to have therapeutic value. I think that is largely settled in the American public opinion.
About 90% of Americans believe medical cannabis has value. So this is much less of a– a left-right issue. I think the science is a firm support for it. Second is the growing public awareness of the– the inequities in cannabis prohibition. The ACLU recently updated its “Cannabis in Black and White” report, which shows the racial discrepancies in prohibition enforcement.
And Black cannabis consumers, even though they consume at the same rates as white cannabis consumers, are still nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis offenses, and in some states nearly 10 times more likely. And as folks are looking at those numbers, they’re just– you know, the inequity of– of that– those prosecutions, particularly given the national debate that we’re having right now on policing, I think is ringing loudly and resonating loudly with a lot of people.
ZACK GUZMAN: [INAUDIBLE]
JOHN KAGIA: When–
ZACK GUZMAN: Sorry, go ahead.
JOHN KAGIA: Yeah, the economics of cannabis. At a time when COVID has so acutely hurt state and local budgets, you know, there’s a lot more open consideration for things that might historically have been problematic. And so I think you’re seeing much more receptivity to the idea of legalizing cannabis when you look at a state like Colorado, which, in its first six years of legalization, generated nearly $80 billion in sales.
US hits Iran court, judges with sanctions over wrestler
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Thursday hit an Iranian revolutionary court and several judges with sanctions in part for their role in the conviction and execution of a young wrestler.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed the sanctions on two judges with Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz as well as three prisons where he said human rights abuses were rampant. The sanctions include asset freezes and ban Americans from doing business with the targets.
Pompeo said Judge Seyyed Mahmoud Sadati was being hit for his involvement in the case of 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari who was executed earlier this month despite worldwide appeals for clemency, including from President Donald Trump. Pompeo called the execution “an unconscionable act” that “must not be in vain.”
“The United States calls upon all nations to promote accountability for this regime by imposing sanctions like the ones announced today,” Pompeo said. “Too often, the Iranian regime targets, arrests, and kills the brightest and most promising Iranians, thereby depriving Iran of its greatest asset – the skill and talent of its own people.”
On Sept. 12, Iran executed Afkari, who was convicted of murder, despite an international outcry to stop the execution and following Trump’s plea. His case had drawn attention after a social media campaign portrayed him and his brothers, who remain in prison, as victims who were targeted because they participated in protests against Iran’s Shiite theocracy in 2018.
Authorities accused Afkari of fatally stabbing a water supply company employee in the southern city of Shiraz amid the unrest.
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3 ‘Strong Buy’ Stocks With Over 7% Dividend Yield
Markets are volatile, there can be no doubt. So far this month, the S&P 500 has fallen 9% from its peak. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which had led the gainers all summer, is now leading the on the fall, having lost 11% since September 2. The three-week tumble has investors worried that we may be on the brink of another bear market.The headwinds are strong. The usual September swoon, the upcoming election, doubts about another round of economic stimulus – all are putting downward pressure on the stock markets.Which doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. As the old saw goes, “Bulls and bears can both make money, while the pigs get slaughtered.” A falling market may worry investors, but a smart strategy can prevent the portfolio from losing too much long-term value while maintaining a steady income. Dividend stocks, which feed into the income stream, can be a key part of such a strategy.Using the data available in the TipRanks database, we’ve pulled up three stocks with high yields – from 7% to 11%, or up to 6 times the average dividend found on the S&P 500 index. Even better, these stocks are seen as Strong Buys by Wall Street’s analysts. Let’s find out why.Williams Companies (WMB)We start with Williams Companies, an Oklahoma-based energy company. Williams controls pipelines connecting Rocky Mountain natural gas fields with the Pacific Northwest region, and Appalachian and Texan fields with users in the Northeast and transport terminals on the Gulf Coast. The company’s primary operations are the processing and transport of natural gas, with additional ops in crude oil and energy generation. Williams handles nearly one-third of all US commercial and residential natural gas use.The essential nature of Williams’ business – really, modern society simply cannot get along without reliable energy sources – has insulated the company from some of the economic turndown in 1H20. Quarterly revenues slid from $2.1 billion at the end of last year to $1.9 billion in Q1 and $1.7 billion in Q2. EPS in the first half was 26 cents for Q1 and 25 cents for Q2 – but this was consistent with EPS results for the previous three quarters. The generally sound financial base supported the company’s reliable dividend. Williams has been raising that payment for the past four years, and even the corona crisis could not derail it. At 40 cents per common share, the dividend annualizes to $1.60 and yields an impressive 7.7%. The next payment is scheduled for September 28.Truist analyst Tristan Richardson sees Williams as one of the midstream sector’s best positioned companies.“We continue to look to WMB as a defensive component of midstream and favor its 2H prospects as broader midstream grasps at recovery… Beyond 2020 we see the value proposition as a stable footprint with free cash flow generation even in the current environment. We also see room for incremental leverage reduction throughout our forecast period on scaled back capital plans and even with the stable dividend. We look for modestly lower capex in 2021, however unlike more G&P oriented midstream firms, we see a project backlog in downstream that should support very modest growth,” Richardson noted.Accordingly, Richardson rates WMB shares as a Buy, and his $26 price target implies a 30% upside potential from current levels. (To watch Richardson’s track record, click here)Overall, the Strong Buy analyst consensus rating on WMB is based on 11 Buy reviews against just a single Hold. The stock’s current share price is $19.91 and the average price target is $24.58, making the one-year upside potential 23%. (See WMB stock analysis on TipRanks)Magellan Midstream (MMP)The second stock on our list is another midstream energy company, Magellan. This is another Oklahoma-based firm, with a network of assets across much of the US from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi Valley, and into the Southeast. Magellan’s network transports crude oil and refined products, and includes Gulf Coast export shipping terminals.Magellan’s total revenues rose sequentially to $782.8 in Q1, and EPS came in at $1.28, well above the forecast. These numbers turned down drastically in Q2, as revenue fell to $460.4 million and EPS collapsed to 65 cents. The outlook for Q3 predicts a modest recovery, with EPS forecast at 85 cents. The company strengthened its position in the second quarter with an issue of 10-year senior notes, totaling $500 million, at 3.25%. This reduced the company’s debt service payments, and shored up liquidity, making possible the maintenance of the dividend.The dividend was kept steady at $1.0275 per common share quarterly. Annualized, this comes to $4.11, a good absolute return, and gives a yield of 11.1%, giving MMP a far higher return than Treasury bonds or the average S&P-listed stock.Well Fargo analyst Praneeth Satish believes that MMP has strong prospects for recovery. “[We] view near-term weakness in refined products demand as temporary and recovering. In the interim, MMP remains well positioned given its strong balance sheet and liquidity position, and ratable cash flow stream…” Satish goes on to note that the dividend appears secure for the near-term: “The company plans to maintain the current quarterly distribution for the rest of the year.”In line with this generally upbeat outlook, Satish gives MMP an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and a $54 price target that implies 57% growth in the coming year. (To watch Satish’s track record, click here)Net net, MMP shares have a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, a show of confidence by Wall Street’s analyst corps. The stock is selling for $33.44, and the average price target of $51.13 implies 53% growth in the year ahead. (See MMP stock analysis on TipRanks)Ready Capital Corporation (RC)The second stock on our list is a real estate investment trust. No surprise finding one of these in a list of strong dividend payers – REITs have long been known for their high dividend payments. Ready Capital, which focuses on the commercial mortgage niche of the REIT sector, has a portfolio of loans in real estate securities and multi-family dwellings. RC has provided more than $3 billion in capital to its loan customers.In the first quarter of this year, when the coronavirus hit, the economy turned south, and business came to a standstill, Ready Capital took a heavy blow. Revenues fell by 58%, and Q1 EPS came in at just one penny. Things turned around in Q2, however, after the company took measures – including increasing liquidity, reducing liabilities, and increasing involvement in government-sponsored lending – to shore up business. Revenues rose to $87 million and EPS rebounded to 70 cents.In the wake of the strong Q2 results, RC also started restoring its dividend. In Q1 the company had slashed the payment from 40 cents to 25 cents; in the most recent declaration, for an October 30 payment, the new dividend is set at 30 cents per share. This annualizes to $1.20 and gives a strong yield of 9.9%.Crispin Love, writing from Piper Sandler, notes the company’s success in getting back on track.“Given low interest rates, Ready Capital had a record $1.2B in residential mortgage originations versus our $1.1B estimate. Gain on sale margins were also at record levels. We are calculating gain on sale margins of 3.7%, up from 2.4% in 1Q20,” Love wrote.In a separate note, written after the dividend declaration, Love added, “We believe that the Board’s actions show an increased confidence for the company to get back to its pre-pandemic $0.40 dividend. In recent earnings calls, management has commented that its goal is to get back to stabilized earnings above $0.40, which would support a dividend more in-line with pre-pandemic levels.”To this end, Love rates RC an Overweight (i.e. Buy) along with a $12 price target, suggesting an upside of 14%. (To watch Love’s track record, click here)All in all, Ready Capital has a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, based on 4 recent positive reviews. The stock has an average price target of $11.50, which gives a 9% upside from the current share price of $10.51. (See RC stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
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