After extradition to Texas, 3D-printed gunmaker Cody Wilson is out on bail

Last week, after Hatreon creator and 3D-printed gun activist Cody Wilson was charged with the sexual assault of a minor, he managed to evade arrest briefly in Taipei. On Friday, authorities successfully located Wilson and extradited him back to Texas, booking him into a Harris County jail. Now, Wilson is out on a $150,000 bond.

Wilson’s arrest in a Taipei hotel on Friday was the result of a collaborative effort between the U.S. Marshals, Taiwan’s police force and the U.S. State Department. His charges stem from an August 22 incident during which Wilson allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old he found on SugarDaddyMeet.com, paying her $500 for sex in a North Austin hotel.

The charges are corroborated by security footage showing Wilson himself and a car with a license plate registered to his business. The charges originated from a report by a counselor who had spoken with the 16-year-old girl who identified Wilson and described the alleged assault.

Wilson lives in Austin where he owns and operates Defense Distributed, a defense company that conducts research and development “for the benefit of the American rifleman.” He reportedly fled to Taiwan after receiving a tip that authorities sought to arrest him.

“This was a collaborative effort that demonstrates the dedication of local, state, federal and international officials working together to bring this fugitive to justice,” U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas Susan Pamerleau said of the arrest.

In a statement to local news, Wilson’s lawyer Samy Khalil announced Wilson’s intentions to fight the charges. “We are glad that Cody is back in Texas again where we can work with him on his case,” Khalil said. “That’s our focus right now, representing our client and preparing his defense.”

Post-Cody Wilson’s arrest, few know what’s up with his company or legal efforts

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AUSTIN, Texas—On the surface, everything appears to be normal at Defense Distributed, the firearms company founded by 3D printed guns activist Cody Wilson. Employees have been reporting to work as usual. Sales of the Ghost Gunner and the related 3D-printed gun files on a USB stick continue. And the Defense Distributed team has been working to fulfill those just like any other week.

But of course, it hasn’t been just any other week for the Austin company. On Wednesday, September 19, an arrest warrant was issued for Wilson related to his alleged sexual assault of an unnamed underage girl. And on Friday, September 21, Wilson was arrested in Taipei, Taiwan. He flew to the country roughly two weeks earlier, and the Austin Police Department said that Wilson had skipped his return flight to the US after they believe the man received a tip about the allegations.

So while business at Defense Distributed rolls along at the moment, the company founder likely faces criminal charges upon returning to his home city. And that means Wilson could be effectively out at Defense Distributed.

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Facing sexual assault charges, 3D-printed gun advocate Cody Wilson evades US authorities

The gun rights activist who waged a very public legal war over the right to freely distribute 3D-printed gun schematics over the internet is facing serious charges that have nothing to do with firearms.

According to a law enforcement press conference today, Cody Wilson, 30, is believed to have traveled to Taipei after learning that he was under investigation for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. Wilson, who travels frequently, also missed his scheduled return flight.

According to an affidavit filed on Wednesday, Wilson is charged with the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl in Travis County, Texas. The affidavit describes how Wilson, an Austin resident, began communicating with the alleged victim under the handle “Sanjuro” using the website “SugarDaddyMeet.com.”

The two continued talking via iMessage and Wilson allegedly identified himself to the victim and mentioned that he was a “big deal,” prompting her to find his name featured in recent news stories. In addition to his high-profile role in the debate over 3D-printed firearms, Wilson also attracted attention when he founded Hatreon, a crowdfunding site for fundraisers that violated the rules of sites like Patreon and Kickstarter.

The affidavit, published in full on Ars Technica, details how the two met in person on August 15 at a local coffee shop and Wilson then took the victim to a hotel in a vehicle registered to his company, Defense Distributed. The victim alleges that the sexual assault took place at Austin’s Archer hotel, after which Wilson paid her $500. Surveillance footage corroborates the victim’s story.

Austin’s police department is coordinating with international authorities to bring him back to the country to face the second-degree felony charges, which could be punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Update: A reporter with the Austin American-Statesman reports that the U.S. Marshals have issued a wanted poster for Wilson.

This city has a vision for mass transit that doesn’t involve city buses

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Arlington, Texas, has the dubious distinction of being the largest American city without a conventional bus system. Sandwiched between Dallas and Fort Worth, the town of nearly 400,000 people launched a single bus line called the MAX in 2013—but even that got shut down last year.

But just as some developing countries have leapfrogged past landline telephones in favor of cellular technology, Arlington is trying to turn its status as a mass-transit laggard into an advantage by embracing cutting-edge transportation technologies.

Last week, the city announced a new partnership with the self-driving car startup Drive.ai. Starting in October, free Drive.ai shuttles will circulate on public streets in Arlington’s Entertainment District, past a Six Flags amusement park and the stadiums where the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers play.

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Distributor of plans for 3D-printed guns puts his product back in circulation

Cody Wilson, the self-described crypto-anarchist who on Monday was blocked from distributing schematics for 3D-printed guns online, is making good on his promise for “one hell of a week.”

Exploiting what Wilson says is a loophole in the judge’s injunction against the distribution of the plans for how to print a firearm using 3D printers, Wilson has replaced the “download” option for the schematics on his website with an option to purchase.

At a news conference in Texas, Wilson said he had begun selling the plans on Tuesday morning and had already received nearly 400 orders, according to a report by The Associated Press.

“Anyone who wants to get these files is going to get them,” the AP quoted Wilson. “They can name their own price.”

By selling the schematics and distributing them via email or secure digital download, it looks like Wilson may just skirt the judge’s injunction on the distribution of the plans.

As Vice noted in its report on Wilson’s plans, the judge who issued the ruling wrote that, “Regulation under [The Arms Export Control Act] means that the files cannot be uploaded to the internet… But they can be emailed, mailed, securely transmitted, or otherwise published within the United States.”

The Arms Export Control Act is the original statute that the State Department cited when it first demanded that Wilson pull his blueprints. Then, in 2015, Wilson counter-sued the State Department claiming that his First Amendment free speech rights had been violated by the State Department order.

After several years of litigation, the government blinked and, earlier this year, settled with Wilson — acceding to the argument that he had a First Amendment right to distribute the plans.

However, in a Monday ruling, Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the Federal District Court in Seattle ruled in favor of attorneys general from Washington, D.C. and 19 states who argued that the distribution of 3D-printed guns posed a threat to national safety.

The judge wrote that any First Amendment arguments and issues “are dwarfed by the irreparable harms the states are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn and that, over all, the public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo through the pendency of this litigation.”

That ruling extends a July 31 temporary restraining order on distribution of the files until the case brought by the attorneys general is settled.

By distributing the plans for the 3D-printed weapons, Wilson runs the risk of being held in contempt of court — something that the anarchist appears to relish.

Importantly, the plans have already made their way onto other platforms. Earlier this week, a book that compiled all of the schematics in one bound edition was being sold on Amazon. The online retailer took it down.

Millions of Texas voter records exposed online

A massive trove of voter records containing personal information on millions of Texas residents has been found online.

The data — a single file containing an estimated 14.8 million records — was left on an unsecured server without a password. Texas has 19.3 million registered voters.

It’s the latest exposure of voter data in a long string of security incidents that have cast doubt on political parties’ abilities to keep voter data safe at a time where nation states are actively trying to influence elections.

TechCrunch obtained a copy of the file, which was first found by a New Zealand-based data breach hunter who goes by the pseudonym Flash Gordon. It’s not clear who owned the server where the exposed file was found, but an analysis of the data reveals that it was likely originally compiled by Data Trust, a Republican-focused data analytics firm created by the GOP to provide campaigns with voter data.

Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at security firm UpGuard, analyzed a portion of the data. (It was Vickery who found a larger trove of 198 million voter records last year exposed by a similar data firm Deep Root Analytics, which sourced much of its data from Data Trust.)

A spokesperson for Data Trust declined to comment on the record.

The file — close to 16 gigabytes in size — contained dozens of fields, including personal information like a voter’s name, address, gender and several years’ worth of voting history, including primaries and presidential elections.

Granted, much of that data is public. According to The Texas Tribune, that kind of voter data in Texas is already obtainable for a fee, but information relating to individuals’ political affiliations and party memberships is not. Sam Taylor, communications director for the Texas secretary of state, told TechCrunch in an email that certain data points — like Social Security numbers — are also excluded, and the voter data cannot be used for commercial purposes, like advertising.

But data-driven political firms like Data Trust use the data for political purposes, specializing in supplementing those voter profiles with information that might help a campaign to flip a person who might not vote for a Republican candidate at the ballot box.

That’s where this file fills in the gaps with dozens of other fields, which can be used by campaigns to position their political messaging.

For example, the data includes fields that might score an individual’s believed views on immigration, hunting, abortion rights, government spending and views on the Second Amendment.

Other fields were more relevant to the recent 2016 presidential election, in which the data predictively scored individuals on if they “trust” or have “no trust” for then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The data also includes additional personal information, such as a person’s phone numbers and their ethnicity and race.

It’s not known exactly when the data was compiled, but an analysis of the data suggests it was prepared in time for the 2016 presidential election. It’s also not known if the file is a subset of the 198 million records leak last year — or if it’s a standalone data set.

Without an owner to inform of the exposure, it’s unclear if the data is still online.

Making way for new levels of American innovation

New fifth-generation “5G” network technology will equip the United States with a superior wireless platform unlocking transformative economic potential. However, 5G’s success is contingent on modernizing outdated policy frameworks that dictate infrastructure overhauls and establishing the proper balance of public-private partnerships to encourage investment and deployment.

Most people have heard by now of the coming 5G revolution. Compared to 4G, this next-generation technology will deliver near-instantaneous connection speed, significantly lower latency – meaning near-zero buffer times – and increased connectivity capacity to allow billions of devices and applications to come online and communicate simultaneously and seamlessly.

While 5G is often discussed in future tense, the reality is it’s already here. Its capabilities were displayed earlier this year at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where Samsung and Intel  class=”m_4430823757643656150MsoHyperlink”>showcased a 5G enabled virtual reality (VR) broadcasting experience to event goers. In addition, multiple U.S. carriers including Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have announced commercial deployments in select markets by the end of 2018, while chipmaker Qualcomm unveiled last month its new 5G millimeter-wave module that outfits smartphones with 5G compatibility.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – 2018/02/26: View of the phone company QUALCOMM technology 5G in the Mobile World Congress.
The Mobile World Congress 2018 is being hosted in Barcelona from 26 February to 1st March. (Photo by Ramon Costa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

While this commitment from 5G commercial developers is promising, long-term success of 5G is ultimately dependent on addressing two key issues.

The first step is ensuring the right policies are established at the federal, state and municipal levels in the U.S. that will allow the buildout of needed infrastructure, namely “small cells”. This equipment is designed to fit on streetlights, lampposts and buildings. You may not even notice them as you walk by, but they are critical to adding capacity to the network and transmitting wireless activity quickly and reliably. 

In many communities across the U.S., 20th century infrastructure policies are slowing the emergence of bringing next-generation networks and technologies online. Issues including costs per small cell attachment, permitting around public rights-of-way and deadlines on application reviews are all less-than-exciting topics of conversation but act as real threats to achieving timely implementation of 5G according to recent research from Accenture and the 5G Americas organization.

Policymakers can mitigate these setbacks by taking inventory of their own policy frameworks and, where needed, streamlining and modernizing processes. For instance, current small cell permit applications can take upwards of 18 to 24 months to advance through the approval process as a result of needed buy-in from many local commissions, city councils, etc. That’s an incredible amount of time for a community to wait around and ultimately fall behind on next-generation access. As a result, policymakers are beginning to act. 

13 states, including Florida, Ohio, and Texas have already passed bills alleviating some of the local infrastructure hurdles accompanying increased broadband network deployment, including delays and pricing. Additionally, this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has moved on multiple orders that look to remedy current 5G roadblocks including opening up commercial access to more amounts of needed high-, mid- and low-band spectrum.

The second step is identifying areas in which public and private entities can partner to drive needed capital and resources towards 5G initiatives. These types of collaborations were first made popular in Europe, where we continue to see significant advancement of infrastructure initiatives through combined public-private planning including the European Commission and European ICT industry’s 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP).

The U.S. is increasing its own public-private levels of planning. In 2015, the Obama Administration’s Department of Transportation launched its successful “Smart City Challenge” encouraging planning and funding in U.S. cities around advanced connectivity. More recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded New York City a $22.5 million grant through its Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative to create and deploy the first of a series of wireless research hubs focused on 5G-related breakthroughs including high-bandwidth and low-latency data transmission, millimeter wave spectrum, next-generation mobile network architecture, and edge cloud computing integration.

While these efforts should be applauded, it’s important to remember they are merely initial steps. A recent study conducted by CTIA, a leading trade association for the wireless industry, found that the United States remains behind both China and South Korea in 5G development. If other countries beat the U.S. to the punch, which some anticipate is already happening, companies and sectors that require ubiquitous, fast, and seamless connection – like autonomous transportation for example – could migrate, develop, and evolve abroad casting lasting negative impact on U.S. innovation. 

The potential economic gains are also significant. A 2017 Accenture report predicts an additional $275 billion in infrastructure investments from the private sector, resulting in up to 3 million new jobs and a gross domestic product (GDP) increase of $500 billion. That’s just on the infrastructure side alone. On the global scale, we could see as much as $12 trillion in additional economic activity according to discussion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January.

Former President John F. Kennedy once said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” When it comes to America’s technology evolution, this quote holds especially true. Our nation has led the digital revolution for decades. Now with 5G, we have the opportunity to unlock an entirely new level of innovation that will make our communities safer, more inclusive and more prosperous for all.

UberAIR to take flight with help from UT Austin and U.S. Army Research Labs

After three months of discussions, Uber Elevate has selected The University of Texas at Austin as its partner alongside the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to develop new rotor technology for vehicles that the company will use in its uberAIR flying taxi network.

The news is the latest step in Uber’s plans to get demonstration flights off the ground in the megalopolises of Dallas Ft. Worth; Los Angeles, and Dubai. The ultimate goal is to have uberAIR services commercially available in those cities by 2023.

To achieve that, Uber has set up some rigorous specifications for its vehicle and the traffic management system used to operate uberAIR, developed in conjunction with several aircraft manufacturers and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Specifically for the vehicle, Uber is requiring a fully electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle that has a cruising speed of 150 to 200 miles per hour; a cruising altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 feet; and a range of up to 60 miles for a single charge.

The company isn’t the only one racing to own the sky taxi space for urban transport. Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang; Aston Martin; Rolls Royce; Audi and Airbus and other, smaller, startup vendors are all trying to make flying vehicles. Ehang has been touting manned test flights of its drone already.

Uber, on the other hand is trying to build out the service in much the same way it did with car hailing so many years ago.

The company actually unveiled its thoughts on air travel and design a few months ago at its Elevate conference.

At UT, a research team led by Professor Jayant Sirohi, one of the country’s experts on unmanned drone technology, VTOL aircraft, and fixed- and rotary-wing elasticity will examine how the efficacy of a new flying technology, which uses two rotor systems stacked on top of one another and rotating in the same direction.

Called co-rotating rotors, the new technology will be tested for its efficiency and noise signature, according to a statement from the university. Preliminary tests have shown the potential for these rotors to work better than other approaches while also improving versatility for an aircraft.

“There’s a lot of things to be done,” said Sirohi. “We are not doing vehicles. we’re doing a specific rotor system on one of the engineering common reference models that Uber has released.”

The reference model is a benchmark for what the aircraft should do in field tests and eventually operations, Sirohi said. “We are pursuing these technologies to see what the gaps are in where we are today and where we need to be,” Sirohi said.