Maker of hit video game Fortnite sues Apple after game’s removal from App Store in dispute over payment system #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Maker of hit video game Fortnite sues Apple after game’s removal from App Store in dispute over payment system

Aug 14. 2020

By The Washington Post · Rachel Lerman, Reed Albergotti · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT, VIDEO-GAMES 
Fortnite is better known for facilitating virtual battles between video game players. On Thursday, it picked a fight of its own with Apple, setting the stage for a courtroom brawl that, if successful, could have far reaching ramifications for the iPhone maker.

Epic Games, maker of Fortnite, said Thursday it is suing Apple over “anticompetitive conduct” after the tech giant kicked the game’s app off its App Store. Epic Games released a feature that lets users choose how they want to pay for in-app purchases – either through the App Store or Google’s Play Store, or from Epic directly, which saves up to 20 percent.

Apple generally takes a cut of 30 percent of payments made in apps obtained through the App Store. Google Play Store generally takes a similar 30 percent cut.

Not long after Apple removed its app, the video game maker filed a 65-page lawsuit in federal court in Northern California that appeared to anticipate Apple’s actions.

Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the world. Last year, Epic Games boasted the game had about 250 million active accounts a month. According to market research firm Sensor Tower, Fortnite was downloaded 2.4 million times on the App Store over the last 30 days and generated $43.4 million in consumer spending through the iOS app over that period. Since it was created, it has tallied 133.2 million installs and accounted for $1.2 billion in spending.

Getting kicked off the App Store means new users won’t be able to download the mobile app. Users who already have it on their phones will still be able to use the game for now but won’t be able to update it to new versions.

Epic’s suit specifically calls out Apple’s payment practices.

“Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100 percent monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market,” the filing reads.

Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz said the company removed Fortnite from the store after Epic violated its guidelines.

“Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services,” he said in an emailed statement.

Google had removed Fortnite from its Play Store as of late Thursday. Android users can still download Fortnite directly from Epic’s website.

“For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” Google spokesperson Dan Jackson said in a statement. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies.”

Epic’s legal battle against Apple is the latest episode in a war between app developers and the tech giant. In recent years, Apple has grown more powerful because of its App Store, which controls which apps can be installed on iPhones. By contrast, developers can bypass Google’s Play Store with different Android app stores or offer their programs to download from their own sites. The App Store is more lucrative, though, because iPhone users spend more money online. And when businesses designed around mobile apps have proven successful, Apple has increasingly encroached into those areas, using its power over the App Store to advantage itself.

The App Store has drawn the attention of lawmakers investigating Apple and other tech giants over competition concerns. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the App Store cut in front of Congress when big tech executives were grilled as part of the investigation. 

In recent years, as Apple has grown more powerful and competition in the smartphone industry has withered, developers have begun to fight back. Most prominently, music streaming service Spotify made public complaints in Europe, leading to an investigation by the European Commission into Apple’s business practices.

Even as companies push back, Apple has grown more aggressive in enforcing its cut. In the past, Apple had allowed developers to collect subscription fees outside the App Store, so long as those alternative options were not advertised on the App Store. Companies like Amazon and Spotify had taken advantage of that loophole. But when email service Hey tried to do this, Apple stopped approving updated versions of its mobile app.

Companies like Spotify and Epic Games argue that Apple’s fees are artificially high because of Apple’s monopoly over the App Store, and they say the benefits Apple provides as the curator of the store do not merit a 30 percent fee.

Spotify spokesman Adam Grossberg said the company applauded Epic Games’ decision to “take a stand against Apple and shed further light on Apple’s abuse of its dominant position.” He added, “Apple’s unfair practices have disadvantaged competitors and deprived consumers for far too long. The stakes for consumers and app developers large and small couldn’t be higher and ensuring that the iOS platform operates competitively and fairly is an urgent task with far-reaching implications.”

Epic Games chief executive Tim Sweeney had already criticized Apple for the practice earlier this summer.

“The iOS App Store’s monopoly protects only Apple profit, not device security,” he said.

Members of Congress asked Cook if the company would ever increase its 30 percent commission, but the executive sidestepped the question. He stated the company has never increased subscription fees.

Apple has made some exceptions to the 30 percent fee, including for Amazon videos earlier this year. But those exceptions appear to be one-off deals. Apple also does not collect fees on purchases of real-world goods, such as items shipped from Amazon, coffee bought from Starbucks or cars ordered through apps like Uber and Lyft.

Fortnite was released as a free game in 2017 by Epic Games. While it initially failed to make a splash, the game quickly pivoted toward the then-growing battle royale game genre, which drew more fans every month. The game’s popularity skyrocketed in March 2018 when Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the world’s most popular video game streaming personality, played matches of Fortnite with rappers Drake and Travis Scott, and NFL star JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Fortnite then became a global cultural touchpoint, becoming so popular that national sports leagues grew concerned about lax player training schedules, and Netflix executives cited the game, and not HBO or Hulu, as its biggest competitor.

The game remains one of the most-watched on Twitch, the streaming platform owned by Amazon.

On Thursday, shortly after its app was taken down by Apple, Epic rolled out a website and a video that spoofed Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial. Back then, IBM was the juggernaut and Apple was the upstart. The commercial used George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” to paint IBM as Big Brother.

“On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984,” the commercial said.

Now, Epic Games sees Apple as having taken IBM’s place. “Epic respectfully requests this Court to enjoin Apple from continuing to impose its anti-competitive restrictions on the iOS ecosystem and ensure 2020 is not like ‘1984.′”

Epic’s suit says the payment system is used to effectively “gag app developers” from even mentioning other payment options outside the app.

“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” the suit reads.

Chiang Mai mountain schools bridge education gap to revive dying communities #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Chiang Mai mountain schools bridge education gap to revive dying communities

Aug 13. 2020Students at Ban Khobdong School are pictured in their Palong hilltribe costumes.Students at Ban Khobdong School are pictured in their Palong hilltribe costumes.

By Jintana Panyaarvudh
Special to The Nation

Fang, Chiang Mai
Jintana PanyaarvudhKuljira Longkaew, a Prathom 6 student at Ban Khobdong School in Chiang Mai’s Doi Ang Khang, dreams of becoming a voiceover artist and earning huge income.

To fulfil her dream, the 11-year-old Palong hilltribe girl knows she must study hard to master the three languages she already speaks – her native Palong, Thai and English.

Soonthorn Keskesri, director of Ban Khobdong School, presents the ‘Angkhang Model’ network.

Soonthorn Keskesri, director of Ban Khobdong School, presents the ‘Angkhang Model’ network.

But ordinary subjects are not enough to achieve her ambition, so she needs her school to provide music tuition too.

“Learning languages helps me to speak clearly and fluently, but music class will show me how to use rhythm correctly and that will help me get good at voiceover,” she said.

 Kuljira longkaew, a Prathom 6 student, creates a handicraft to sell at the Ban Khobdong School shop.

Kuljira longkaew, a Prathom 6 student, creates a handicraft to sell at the Ban Khobdong School shop.

Kuljira is one of many hilltribe students living in remote and mountainous northern Thailand, where the quality of education is often low due to economic and social deprivation as well as cultural difference.

Attempting to improve the situation, five schools in Doi Ang Khang have partnered to conduct research on “new normal” education for the 21st century that caters to students in remote areas. The schools of Ban Khobdong, Ban Luang and Debsirin 9 in Fang district, and Ban Phadaeng and Santiwana in Chai Prakarn district are now collectively known as the “Angkhang Model” network.

Headed by Riam Singthorn, an award-winning teacher at Ban Khobdong school, the research project is aimed at designing curriculums that empower graduating students to earn a living from their local resources so they don’t need to leave for work in big cities.

The project is funded by the Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI).

Among many problems faced by underprivileged students here is lower-quality education, which affects their chances when competing for college places with students in big cities. Most are from ethnic groups and do not have Thai citizenship, making it even more difficult to enter higher education. And with pressure high to get a job and begin earning, very few continue their study beyond school.

Doi Ang Khang is renowned among tourists for its blooming wild Himalayan cherry trees and cool weather, but the local economy has taken a hit from an ecosystem rehab plan. Resorts have been demolished or closed to tourists, forcing local parents and children to leave the area and make their livelihoods elsewhere.

However, the Covid-19 lockdown saw locals flock back to their hometowns, where they had to seek whatever local resources were available to earn a living. 

While some struggled, others turned the crisis into an opportunity. Villagers in Ban Phadaeng, Chai Prakarn district, found a way to make money from its avocado trees, earning Bt100,000 to Bt1 million from selling seedlings online during the outbreak.

Push for self-sufficiency

Realising that schools had a vital role to play in Ang Khang’s push for self-sufficiency, Riam said the network switched the focus to alternative and vocational education. 

The school’s directors, teachers, parents and students agreed that adding vocational skills training to their normal curriculum would help students earn a living in their hometowns when they graduated.

Initially, the Angkhang Model aimed to boost basic literacy among the highland children, but technology enabled researchers to go deeper, mapping the children’s different circumstances – social, geographical, local wisdom, identity, and social capital – to tailor curriculums for each separate community.

With Doi Ang Khang being “set to zero” under its ecosystem rehab plan, the TSRI asked the researchers to refocus the goal from literacy to how to develop locals, their community and surroundings simultaneously for the sake of Ang Khang’s future, explained Benjawan Wongkam, the TSRI officer who oversaw the research project.

She said literacy alone was not an answer for the area’s problems since parents here want their children to find jobs quickly and make a living.

A pupil at Santiwana School demonstrates how to make banana cake.

A pupil at Santiwana School demonstrates how to make banana cake.

Though students lacked opportunity for further study due to their statelessness, if they were given skills to exploit existing natural resources in the area or follow sufficiency economy practices, they could stay at home and earn money, she added.

Schools under the Angkhang Model are already teaching a range of skills in addition to their normal curriculum. Students at Santiwana School are learning cooking, crafting and electrician’s skills and using them to make money, while pupils at Ban Phadaeng School are taught how to graft avocado seedlings and process the fruit into ice cream and soap.

“What we are trying to do is to support our students so they can make their livelihood here when they graduate, and don’t need to leave home to find jobs elsewhere,” said Wasant Muensorn, director of Santiwana School.

For local students like Kuljira, the future is starting to look brighter in Doi Ang Khang. 

Jintana Panyaarvudh

Freelance writer

Former managing editor, The Nation

Facebook says it’s taken down 7 million posts for spreading coronavirus misinformation #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Facebook says it’s taken down 7 million posts for spreading coronavirus misinformation

Aug 12. 2020

By The Washington Post · Rachel Lerman · NATIONAL, TECHNOLOGY, HEALTH, MEDIA, HEALTH-NEWS 
Facebook said Tuesday that it took down 7 million posts pushing covid-19 misinformation from its main social media site and Instagram between April and June as the company tried to combat the rapid spread of dangerous information about the virus.

The company also put warning notes on 98 million covid-19 misinformation posts on Facebook during that time period — labeling posts that were still misleading but not deemed harmful enough to remove.

Facebook and fellow big social media sites Twitter and YouTube have been scrambling to keep up with the flood of posts promoting fake cures or harmful speculation about the spread of the novel coronavirus since early this spring. Facebook put policies in place to try to regulate covid-19 posts, but their moderation teams that monitor such posts have also been disrupted as offices remain closed.

Facebook sent its content moderators home in March, a move that led to fewer posts being removed in certain rulebreaking areas between April and June. But other policies benefited from improved artificial intelligence technology, and Facebook reported a bump in removing posts for violating some policies.

Tuesday’s reports was Facebook’s sixth on how well its rules are being enforced.

The company took down 22.5 million posts on Facebook for violating its hate speech rules during the time period, an increase from 9.6 million posts during the first quarter of the year. Much of that increase was due to better detection technology and adding three languages to its automated system that searches for violating posts, Facebook said.

Facebook is also once again expanding its definition of hate speech, it said Tuesday, to include more content depicting blackface and some harmful Jewish stereotypes.

But operations tremors caused by covid-19 also meant Facebook had to prioritize some rules over others, and other metrics slipped. The company took down 35.7 million posts for breaking its rules about adult nudity and sexual activity, compared to 39.5 million in the first three months of the year. The change was because of “temporary workforce changes due to COVID-19,” Facebook wrote in the Community Standards Enforcement Report.

The company also called for an independent audit of its reports – which will be released quarterly from now on – a move that would give external organizations a peek under Facebook’s secretive hood.

“No company should grade its own homework, and the credibility of our systems should be earned, not assumed,” Facebook technical program manager Vishwanath Sarang wrote in a blog post announcing a request for proposals for the audit.

Despite the teams of thousands of content moderators, social media sites have still let coronavirus misinformation spread online. In May, Facebook and YouTube removed the so-called “Plandemic” video featuring a conspiracy theory about how covid-19 spread, but it had already been viewed millions of times.

Facebook took down one of President Donald Trump’s posts for spreading coronavirus misinformation earlier in August, after the president posted a video of an interview he gave on Fox News. It was the first time the company had taken down one of the president’s posts for violating its covid-19 misinformation policy. In the interview, he falsely claimed that children are “almost immune” from covid-19.

Twitter also sanctioned the video on its site and required the Trump 2020 campaign account to delete a tweet with the same clip.

Disinformation for profit: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Disinformation for profit: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash

Aug 12. 2020The Wolf of Washington website on a laptop computer. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Melina Mara.
Photo by: Melina Mara — The Washington Post
Location: Big Sur USAThe Wolf of Washington website on a laptop computer. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Melina Mara. Photo by: Melina Mara — The Washington Post Location: Big Sur USA

By The Washington Post · Isaac Stanley-Becker · NATIONAL, TECHNOLOGY, POLITICS 
The reality curated by “The Bearded Patriot” and “The Wolf of Washington” is dismal.

The websites tell of nonstop riots and “crazed leftists.” They warn of online censorship and the wiles of an “anarchist billionaire,” a reference to George Soros, the liberal investor and Holocaust survivor.

The material is tailor-made to inflame right-wing passions. But its underlying purpose is to collect email addresses and other personal information from impassioned readers, whose inboxes then fill up with narrowly targeted ads. The effect is to monetize the anger stoked by misleading political content – for as much as $2,500 per list of contacts.

An investigation by Alethea Group, an organization combating disinformation that draws its name from the Greek word for “truth,” has linked the operation to Mark S. Evans Jr., a self-proclaimed “online multimillionaire” who affixes “DM,” for “dealmaker,” to his name. The network of 178 sites, at least half of which are politically themed and share visual as well as technical features, is designed to harvest email addresses, which are then sold to commercial brands, according to Alethea Group’s analysis, and possibly also to political campaigns.

The findings, which were provided to The Washington Post, illuminate the financial motives behind the spread of hyperpartisan, low-quality news. And they reveal how merchants of misinformation are exploiting techniques of data collection to more efficiently capitalize on polarization and falsehoods and more effectively target specific communities.

“This is for-profit fearmongering enhanced by aggressive data collection,” said Cindy Otis, Alethea Group’s vice president of analysis. The digital marketing apparatus made possible by the sites, including lucrative data profiles of their visitors, “comes with the capability to support political consulting or campaign work,” said Otis, a former CIA analyst and the author of “True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News.”

Email marketing and campaign list-building are not cutting-edge tactics. But the findings by Alethea Group shed light on a practice further to the extreme, one devoid of any apparent newsgathering mission and unfolding almost entirely in the shadows, with recycled content and stock images.

Peter F. Aquart, an associate of Evans listed as an agent in several of his ventures, posted this summer about “skip tracing,” a practice associated with bounty hunters that involves determining a person’s whereabouts and other private information. “Who are you using?” he asked on Facebook. Around the same time, Aquart hinted at one possible use for the more robust records he was pursuing. He wrote on LinkedIn that he was seeking support for a mass-texting program, a service increasingly central to political campaigns.

“Pairing collected data with things like skip tracing software and bulk messaging apps – it’s where a lot of these networks are headed,” Otis said. “It is the future of political disinformation.”

Neither Evans nor Aquart responded to calls or text messages seeking comment, or to emailed questions about the websites, some of which were previously traced to Evans by BuzzFeed News and linked to advertisements for masks. Aquart acknowledged receipt of a text message but stopped replying after a Washington Post reporter identified himself.

Several LLCs operated by the two men, including Rightside Data and Direct Mailers Group, are set up to sell the data collected from the right-wing websites. The firms provide contact details that are also associated with some of the news sites, and a media and marketing specialist listed as a Rightside employee, Andy Pangerl, posted ads in May claiming access to “30 Conservative Leaning Email Lists.”

The lists, he wrote, include “1.5 million baby boomers.” Several months earlier, a Facebook page associated with the company advertised a list collected from one of its sites, Real American Pundit. It offered 173,000 email addresses for $2,500.

A LinkedIn profile for Rightside Data, which has also done business as Cash Flow Lead Gen, says it is “focused on delivering highly targeted, quality email leads . . . with our newsletter assets.”

The description adds, “We drive clicks.”

The nimble enterprise offers a case study in how domestic actors stand to profit from the pollution of the online information ecosystem, which has only intensified, experts say, since the 2016 election brought the dangers of disinformation to the fore. The labor required to set up the sites, repackaging existing headlines with a more explicitly partisan or sensationalistic angle, is minimal, said Lisa-Maria Neudert, a researcher with Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Project. But the potential payoff, from even a few stories that gain viral attention on social media, is significant.

“It’s a huge crisis,” said Chris Vargo, a professor of data analytics and digital advertising at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “There are thousands of these sites, fueling hyperpartisanship, reinforcing people’s existing beliefs and making it possible to target them with dangerous disinformation about anything from an election to a vaccine for the coronavirus.” 

Partisan interests do not appear to be a primary motivation for the people behind the online network. Pangerl – whose LinkedIn profile indicates that he formerly worked for Newsmax Media, a conservative outlet whose email lists were tapped for online fundraising by President Trump’s campaign in 2016 – has made pro-Trump posts, including a tweet ridiculing a Democratic primary debate and tagging the president and his eldest son and daughter, along with a range of right-wing pundits.

Evans, however, rarely posts overtly political messages, though he does use news events to advance his business philosophy. Several days after Trump’s election in 2016, he titled a post, “President-Elect Trump’s 100-Day plan . . .” The eye-catching headline was only a hook to tell clients that the president’s plans were less important than the question of how they were bettering their own lives, as Evans wrote, asking, “So what’s your 100-day plan?”

The tactic speaks to Trump’s place at the center of viral clickbait.

“The worst of the Web used to be cat videos,” said Joshua Braun, a scholar of online media at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “Now it’s Trump or viral hoaxes around coronavirus.”

Advanced ad targeting makes it possible to capitalize on the passions the president incites to market products to a narrower and narrower segment of people, Braun said. These technologies, which were manipulated by the Russians in 2016, have drawn scrutiny on Capitol Hill. They have also spurred a wave of research documenting how ad targeting based on Web-browsing behavior reinforces racial bias and inflames partisanship, among other harmful outcomes.

In the case of the network linked to Evans, profit appears to come not from Web advertising but from newsletter sign-ups. Evans owns or operates a cluster of businesses – with addresses in West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach, Fla., among other locations – that focus on digital marketing, real estate transactions and other means of quickly amassing significant riches.

But his main mission seems to be that of a life coach. Claiming to advise “thousands of people across the world,” he offers to transform clients from “mules,” who toil away with little reward, into “magicians,” who achieve results within 10 minutes. He dispatches his advice in morning “Cigars and Coffee” sessions, streamed live on social media, where he tells his followers, who usually number no more than several hundred per session, to “get addicted to winning.”

Evans offers his own life story as a model for would-be clients to emulate. A self-published memoir tells of his ascent from a trailer park in Ohio – “barely graduating high school” – to his life in South Florida “making more money than I ever dreamed possible while traveling the world.” He identifies two primary ventures – “a massive real estate investment firm and a lucrative media company” – that he says “generate millions of dollars each per year.” 

One of the lessons he took with him from his childhood, he says in one video, is to “be honest, be ethical, do the right thing, even if it hurts.” At the same time, the overarching promise he recalls making to himself was, “I’m going to do whatever I can in my powers to go out and achieve wealth at a whole new level.”

That promise took shape in the form of American Wealth Builders, a business that boasts of helping real estate investors diversify their holdings. Comments on the group’s Better Business Bureau profile raise questions about its effectiveness. “This is by far the worst investment you could ever possibly make,” one apparent client wrote in April 2019. “You would be better off to simply light your hundred dollar bills on fire.”

The warning has not kept customers away from Rightside Data, which promotes four clients on its website: Agora Financial, Family Survival, New Market Health and the Oxford Club. All but Family Survival are affiliates of Agora Inc., a Baltimore-based publishing network, and an Agora spokesman confirmed they had obtained email addresses from Rightside Data.

In the past, Agora subsidiaries have expanded their marketing reach by leasing email lists from prominent conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican candidate for president, and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who twice ran for the GOP presidential nomination.

Information gleaned from the right-wing blogs serves the same purpose fulfilled by the contact lists of conservative politicians. The American Pundit, Bearded Patriot and Wolf of Washington websites appear to be part of a common network, centrally designed and operated, according to Alethea Group’s findings. Many of them share domain registration data, IP addresses and Google AdSense identification numbers.

The sites also use similar coding and design features. Virtually all of them include an opportunity to enter an email address and sign up for a newsletter. They also feature similar privacy policies stating that the sites are collecting data from their visitors.

Most of the content is pulled from other conservative outlets, such as the Daily Wire and the Washington Examiner. Writers for external sites are sometimes credited, while other stories appear without bylines, among the key indicators of suspect media identified by the Global Disinformation Index, a Britain-based research group.

Some of the figures operating the sites took steps to conceal their involvement, according to Alethea Group.

One called “Patriot Reserve,” which employs a common tactic for right-wing blogs selling Trump paraphernalia, identifies its chief executive as “Ron Madison.” But the headshot is a stock image, and the website uses the same Wisconsin address listed for the Direct Mailers Group and other websites in the network. The site offers a commemorative Trump coin, which it says typically sells for $127, for $9.

It assures viewers, “This is not a gimmick!”

Back-to-school laptop guide: Pandemic survival edition #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Back-to-school laptop guide: Pandemic survival edition

Aug 12. 2020n the spring, Washington Metropolitan High School senior Na'Asia Hawkins, 18, needed a laptop and WiFi in order to take her classes online and graduate. CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys.n the spring, Washington Metropolitan High School senior Na’Asia Hawkins, 18, needed a laptop and WiFi in order to take her classes online and graduate. CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys.

By The Washington Post · Geoffrey A. Fowler · NATIONAL, TECHNOLOGY, EDUCATION 
Pencils, paper and crayons? No, this year’s most important back-to-school supply is a computer.

After a scramble when covid-19 first shut classrooms in the spring, many school districts have designed this fall’s education around laptops and tablets. That, of course, presumes parents can get the right device, prevent it from breaking, keep the WiFi running and ensure their kids aren’t just goofing off online. And with the economy in the toilet, many families can’t afford a pricey new laptop or broadband connection.

Kaitlin Reilly, 10, works on an assignment for language arts on her iPad in her room. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys.

Kaitlin Reilly, 10, works on an assignment for language arts on her iPad in her room. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys.

Maybe the laptop is something your school supplies – or maybe you’ll buy it yourself. Either way, you need a survival plan.

Last year, American schools bought about 30 million laptops and tablets, while parents bought 2.2 million directly, according to industry analyst Futuresource. Even with a push toward free laptop programs, many schools are still asking parents who can afford it to buy equipment themselves. And for some families, getting a new laptop is a rite of passage.

But the pandemic has changed what we need these machines to do. Now laptops need to get online at home, away from free school broadband and professionally managed WiFi networks. Laptop hardware also now needs the horsepower and battery life to run video conferencing and Web browsers for six or more hours.

The good news: You don’t have to spend much more than $300 to get a computer with a good battery and a webcam that can keep on trucking for three or four years. “Across the country, most curriculum has gone on the Web, so you don’t have to invest in that high-end laptop,” said Kenneth J. Thompson, chief information technology officer of the San Antonio Independent School District.

Online learning has its upsides, too. Teachers, in theory, can get data to personalize instruction. Students are also learning tech skills early. “The silver lining is that kids doing this right now are going to be even more prepared for our digital economy,” Vanessa Monterosa, Los Angeles Unified School District program and policy specialist, said.

It’s as much about having the right mindset about screen time as about having the right gear. The goal should be to “help my student learn self-regulation and screen-time management skills – and discover a love of learning on a unique platform,” Common Sense Media parenting editor Caroline Knorr said.

So where do you start? I spoke with teachers, administrators, parent advocates and tech companies to draw up a back-to-school laptop guide for a year when school is the laptop.

– Listen to your school – or ask it these questions. The trouble begins when parents don’t understand what the school has given their student, or what they really want them to buy.

“I always advise parents to go back and ask the school if they have any advice,” said Adam Garry, a former teacher who now works as Dell’s senior director of education strategy. Not only can listening keep you from wasting money, but schools are much more likely to provide free troubleshooting and support on a sanctioned device. That’s a precious gift for parents suddenly serving as home-school IT help desk.

Mind you, a lack of communication isn’t always parents’ fault. Schools in scramble mode sometimes fail to be clear. In a survey earlier this year, Futuresource found that only 35% of schools recommended laptop models or operating systems to parents – and when they do, only half of parents actually take their advice.

Whether you get a device or buy one, make sure you ask: What’s already loaded? How does your child log in? Where are the assignments and class links? What are the rules about what your child can and can’t do on the device? Can you turn on or add more parental controls? And who do you call when something isn’t working?

Common Sense made a handy draft cheat sheet for schools that has even more good questions for parents.

– Talk with your children about their needs – and responsibilities. Is this device just for school, or is it also how your child is going to be in touch with friends and play? When parents buy laptops directly for their children, they spend more than schools do – an average of $520, according to Futuresource – because they want them do more.

Your child might have some strong opinions. A device with a stylus could help them explore an interest in art. If their friends are really interested in Minecraft, they’ll be better off with a Windows laptop. Even something like the ability to set virtual backgrounds on Zoom video calls could be a status symbol or source of stress. (Lots of older laptops don’t have enough horsepower to run these backgrounds – here are Zoom’s requirements.)

Whether it’s on loan from school or a purchase, a laptop is also a responsibility. Consider making a contract with your child about how they’ll protect it from drops, water and other destructive behavior.

Chromebooks, which are laptops that use a version of Google’s popular Web browser, account for the majority of educational laptops. They’re inexpensive because they run online programs that don’t require a fast processor or lots of storage. Schools like them because they’re easy for administrators to set up and control. If your school tells you to buy one, you might consider Dell’s $250 3100 Chromebook education, the $360 HP Chromebook X360 12-inch or splash out on the $570 Asus Chromebook Flip C434.

But I’ll be blunt: I don’t love Chromebooks, because Google is increasingly more interested in harvesting our data than in helping us. In February, New Mexico’s attorney general sued Google for child privacy violations. (Tip: Be sure your kid is using his or her school-supplied address to log in to theirs because Google isn’t allowed to track them as much with that account.)

And you don’t need a Chromebook to run your school’s Google-based educational software. Laptops running Microsoft’s Windows 10 have gotten much, much less expensive. Windows laptops can run Web-based software, as well as more sophisticated apps that have to be stored on the laptop hard drive. The downside is Windows has more of a reputation for security hassles and other troubleshooting problems. (Tip: Make sure you’ve got the built-in Windows Defender Antivirus turned on.)

I recommend focusing on models Microsoft calls out for being optimized for education (available here). Laptop makers give those solid battery life, design them to take drops and even survive bored kids trying to pick out the keys. You might consider the $350 Lenovo 100e 2nd Gen, the $471 Dell Inspiron 15 5593 and, at the high end, the new $980 Dell XPS 13.

“If you’re able to get the education version of Windows 10, that would be best,” advises Microsoft’s education group leader, Jordan Chrysafidis. It has a simplified start menu, has been tuned to disable potential disruptions like the talking Cortana assistant, and pushes software updates to late at night.

– Apple keyboard are fixed now – but Macs are changing soon. In K-12 education, Macs are niche. But they have their advantages: Apple builds devices to last, makes support easy and simplifies syncing messages, photos and other files with an iPhone. Just know you’ll pay hundreds more for the privilege – and Apple only offers its individual educational discounts to teachers and college students. (Hey, Apple, aren’t pretty much all American parents teachers now?)

If your family is in the Mac tribe, Apple also makes life simpler by giving you just three main laptop choices. Most students go for the least expensive, the $1,000 Macbook Air.

The good news is that Apple has recently updated the whole line to replace the “butterfly” style keyboard that caused many people to complain of dust and crumbs killing keys. I’ve been using Apple’s new “magic keyboard” on my own Macbook and am happy to report it feels fine and hasn’t been foiled by my pandemic snacking.

If you’re considering buying a new Mac, just keep in mind that Apple announced this summer it’s going to begin switching to a new kind of processor later this year. That means a new generation of Macbooks is just around the corner that could boast better performance and battery life.

– iPads are fine for the young but still aren’t laptop replacements. Touchscreen-first devices like the iPad are great for young learners. But many school IT managers tell me they shift to Chromebooks or Windows laptops by the time kids move into third grade. That’s when students need to start writing and typing with a keyboard, and the cheapest way to add an Apple-made keyboard to an iPad brings the overall price to $488 (without educational discount).

And while Apple keeps pushing the iPad’s software to be more productive with features like a fully functional version of the Safari browser, it still can’t replace a laptop. I own both an iPad Pro and a Mac laptop, and I grab the Mac when I want to write or edit photos and video, while I use the iPad when I want to read, video chat or watch TV in bed.

The pandemic suddenly made webcams a critical element of educational tech. Most new devices come with them, but they’re not always very good. You can buy an external webcam that plugs into the computer – after being in short supply in the spring, they’re now back at many stores.

One issue that’s easily overlooked: the placement of the webcam. Some laptops put it down near the hinge, forcing your Zoom class to look straight up your nose. Even iPads have cameras in an awkward location on the side when it’s flipped horizontal.

Don’t forget headphones, either. They’re a lifesaver if your household has multiple people learning or working from home during the pandemic. Expensive noise-canceling ones aren’t necessarily worth the money at home – their tech is designed to cut out low-frequency background noise like an airplane hum more than the drone of a little brother.

Some families also opt for a stylus or digital pencil to use with an iPad or two-in-one laptop-tablet device. There’s evidence, Microsoft says, that learning comprehension on math and science improves by more than 28% when notes are handwritten instead of typed. Software is also getting much better about making handwritten notes searchable – of course, depending on how messy your handwriting is.

And there’s one inexpensive upgrade you can try if a new laptop is out of the budget: For less than $100, you can get a 21-inch screen that plugs into the laptop and lets kids sit up straight and focus on the task at hand. It might just be the next best thing to a desk in a classroom.

– Make sure your kids are actually learning something. Distance learning amplifies all the worries parents have about screen time. How much time should children be spending in front of their laptops now? “A lot of parents want to know: Are you doing homework or are you playing games? And they want to be able to manage that,” said Knorr of Common Sense.

Chromebook, Windows and Mac laptops as well as iPads all offer parental controls. But none are foolproof: Kids multitask, and often figure out how to get around restrictions. There’s no sure-fire way, for example, to make sure they only access the educational videos on YouTube.

Another option is the parental controls built into your home WiFi network, where you can restrict access to content and even cut off connection during certain hours. Some Internet providers include these tools free into an app that comes with the service, or you can buy your own WiFi router that includes family controls.

But in the end, software alone isn’t going to ensure a productive school year. Children need to learn the skills to be good digital citizens.

“If we have certain expectations for the kiddos, parents need to be the models,” said Sophia Mendoza, director of the Instructional Technology Initiative in Los Angeles. Her own daughter, she said, recently called her out for using her phone late at night. “These are learning opportunities for families.”

In 2020, back-to-school shopping means frantically searching for other families to ‘bubble up’ with #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

In 2020, back-to-school shopping means frantically searching for other families to ‘bubble up’ with

Aug 09. 2020The Henrys of Cedar Hill, Texas, are one of many young families who are trying to join forces - and quarantine bubbles - as the school year approaches.  CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Ralph LauerThe Henrys of Cedar Hill, Texas, are one of many young families who are trying to join forces – and quarantine bubbles – as the school year approaches. CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Ralph Lauer

By The Washington Post · Ellen McCarthy · FEATURES, EDUCATION, PARENTING 
It’s August, and America’s parents are the prowl. They’re posting personals ads online and having awkward Zoom dates with near-strangers. They’re scouring message boards for potential matches and asking friends and family members if they know anyone who might be available, interested and – this is the hardest one – compatible. 

There’s nothing thrilling or romantic about it. This is about the kids, and the challenge of surviving this nuclear winter of a school year. Quaran-teams, double bubbles, pandemic pods, micro-schools – whatever you want to call them, young families are seeking some friends for the end of the world as they knew it. 

Jeffrey Henry, left, watches his son, Jackson, assemble a desktop crab robot in his learning area. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Ralph Lauer

Jeffrey Henry, left, watches his son, Jackson, assemble a desktop crab robot in his learning area. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Ralph Lauer

Desperation? Palpable. Hurt feelings? Inevitable. 

“It feels like speed dating/ but with much more high stakes,” says Elizabeth Morin Burns, a D.C. mother of a 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. “And it’s emotionally taxing. The timelines are starting to catch up. It’s like, ‘I need to find my partner. I need to find my soul mate, fast, and figure out how we’re going to manage it.’ “

When schools first shuttered in March, the move was presented as a short pause to suppress the spread of the novel coronavirus. The closure continued through the end of the school year; families muddled through. Now, as the virus has eluded containment and worsened in many states, parents are waking up to the idea that they will be more or less on their own for another six to nine months. Improvising won’t cut it any longer. It’s time to Figure Something Out.

Burns, who works for the Navy, is spending her days mentally rotating through the array of potential survival tactics she and her husband could pursue. Move to Florida to be close to family? Take a leave of absence from her job? Come up with the money to pay for private school?

Forming a team with nearby families in the same situation seemed like the best solution, so Burns set up a Facebook page for Capitol Hill parents looking to create pods. But so far, the process has proven more frustrating than fruitful. 

She posted a notice that she was looking for parents of other rising first-graders who might want to form some sort of cohort. Burns connected with five other families who seemed like good potential matches – until they started talking or texting. Some were uncomfortable with the fact that Burns and her husband occasionally have to work outside the home. Others were looking to spend exorbitant amounts on private tutors. 

Online daters can at least lay out some basic specifications: desired age range, religious preferences. But the quest for perfect pod partners is more chaotic.

“It’s so overwhelming,” Burns says. “I just feel like I’m trapped on my laptop all day trying to hunt some kind of unicorn solution.”

She, like almost every parent interviewed for this story, acknowledged how lucky her family is to have options – and expressed concern about how their choices could affect less privileged children and kids with special needs, an issue that has caused contentious debate in parenting circles. 

Randi Braun, an executive coach who works primarily with women – moms seem to be doing the vast majority of online diplomacy around pandemic school planning, based on the posts showing up on parenting message boards and Facebook pages – says the search for solutions is “all-consuming” for most of her clients. 

“That’s the thing keeping parents up right now: thinking about not just Plan A, but Plan B and Plan C,” she says. “We used to talk about the mental load before the pandemic. This is next level.”

Braun has two kids under 4. Her family has spent much of the summer in Long Island with her parents, discussing their strategy for the fall, when they’ll return to D.C. They have decided to send both kids to the preschool they had originally signed up for, even though she knows it will probably face interruptions or closure if positive coronavirus cases pop up. And by choosing that option, they are cutting themselves off from in-person visits with the grandparents, out of concern for their health. 

“When we say goodbye here, it’s goodbye for a really long time,” she says. And once that happens, Braun is counting on a village of people she has never met to be their pandemic companions: the families of her kids’ upcoming classmates. 

“That’s going to be our orbit for the foreseeable future until there’s a vaccine,” she says. “I feel like I’m taking a trust fall into this idea of community.”

Ebony Scott is doing her own trust fall with a woman whom she has never met in person. Scott, a single mom outside of Chicago who works for a nonprofit, connected through a local Facebook page with another woman looking for a pod. They live in the same town, and both have boys going into the third grade, though at different elementary schools. In their first conversation, conducted via video chat last week, the moms delved headlong into intimate details about their home lives, their kids’ personalities and learning styles and their priorities for the year – which, for Scott, meant making sure the curriculum includes lessons on social justice and racial inequity.

“I don’t know this woman. I’m telling her, ‘We are a Black family. You are a White family. When it comes time for Black history, we are going to really talk about things,’ ” Scott says.

The women’s desires meshed well enough to move forward with a plan to have their sons become a cohort of two and hope they happen to like each other – at least well enough to coexist. “We’re not shopping for best friends,” Scott says. “We’re looking for kids who are going to be compatible in a learning environment.”

Julia and Greg McLawsen of Bellevue, Wash., have so far struck out in their search for compatibility. Their son, Kai, is the type of kid who woke up early on school days, excited to learn and see friends. “Weekends were crushing for him,” says Julia, a forensic psychologist. 

The McLawsens can’t imagine Kai, who is supposed to be entering kindergarten, going many more months without structured social interaction. But finding a pod has proved difficult. Because Julia sometimes has to go out for work, some prospective families considered the McLawsens to be undesirable bubble buddies. (“It cast a pall on our entire family,” she says.) Others had different philosophies around learning or how often to be together. And, though they have yet to find a willing cohort, they’ve begun to worry about how fragile a pod setup could be. 

“In addition to the matchmaking problem, one thing we’re worried about is having a single point of failure,” says Greg, an attorney. “If you have one person teaching the pod and they get sick or get sick of us or get a better offer, the whole thing crumbles.”

“And that pulls the rug out of the stability we’re seeking,” Julia adds.

So, even as they continue searching for potential matches, the McLawsens, who also have a 20-month-old daughter, are pursuing alternatives, including the possibility of relocating to Vancouver or even Thailand, where rates of coronavirus infections have been kept low. The couple has gone as far as putting down a deposit at a Montessori school in Chiang Mai, though moving there would mean Julia would have to stop working. 

They’re trying to remain flexible, but they know they need to make a decision soon. “If we’re going to Vancouver, we need to walk out the door in two weeks,” Greg says. “If we’re going to Thailand, we need to get visas going.”

“The logistics are formidable and overwhelming,” Julia says. “And the logistics for keeping our son home for a whole academic year are even worse.”

Finding pandemic pod-mates may be the first challenge for parents, but Jennifer Henry can attest that it won’t be the last. As an educational consultant with several years of home-schooling experience under her belt, Henry is steps ahead of most parents. When it became apparent that schools couldn’t safely open in their Dallas suburb, several friends and relatives asked Henry to set up a pod. 

Her son, Jackson, 9, named a few boys he would like to learn with, and they ended up with a four-family pod that includes one of Jackson’s previous classmates, a cousin and a family friend. Then came questions of how they would operate. Henry’s husband, Jeffrey, wanted the boys to be together in person every day, but that wouldn’t work for the other families, so they compromised on meeting once a week, with virtual learning the four other days. 

Next came touchy conversations around socializing outside of the pod, how they’ll evaluate and pay teachers and what each family would do if schools reopen. One family is adamant that if schools do reopen, they’ll send their son back, which could leave the rest of the pod in the lurch, and potentially on the hook for a greater portion of teachers’ salaries.

“You’re in each other’s personal business,” Henry says. “You’re sharing responsibility for each other’s kids. I feel like it’s some sort of polygamist community. It’s a level of forced intimacy.”

For several weeks, the parents have been meeting online for post-bedtime strategy sessions. And every time they reach consensus on one issue, it seems like another one pops up. (They just plotted out the school calendar, but now there are concerns about how to address learning differences.)

Think building a plane in midair is difficult? Try creating a miniature school in a month. And doing it by committee – one made up of deeply impassioned parents. 

As many hurdles as they’ve faced, Henry still believes the pod offers an opportunity to “outsmart the oppression” by developing a curriculum that more deeply reflects African American history and experiences than public elementary schools typically offer. She’s also hoping to recruit volunteer teachers to help form similar pods for underserved children that could take place in churches and other community spaces around Dallas. 

Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University and the author of two books on parenting, argues against pandemic pods in general because of the likelihood that they’ll exacerbate inequalities. And because they’re social minefields: “It’s fraught on a bunch of dimensions,” she says. “Like, ‘Oh, can I be in your pod?’ ‘No, we already have our pod.’ The opportunity to shun people is so great.”

If parents do attempt to form some kind of micro-school, Oster says, they should put their expectations in writing. “This is not a set of relationships we’re used to navigating,” she says. A contract, even if it’s nonbinding, gives parents “something to refer back to later. And the bigger thing is that it reveals potential sources of conflicts you weren’t thinking about.”

Robin Watkins isn’t looking for anything nearly so formal. She just wants some buddies. Her parents came to visit just after she gave birth to her second child at the end of February. Then the world froze, and her parents hunkered down in D.C. with Watkins, her husband, their toddler and their newborn. Because of her parents’ advanced ages, the family has kept to themselves – exclusively.

“It just turns out that even with my best friends, we’re not exactly aligned around the choices we’re making around risk to covid.”

Watkins sent a note to a local mom mailing list with the subject line: “ISO family to form bubble.”

“This is certainly the oddest email I’ve ever written,” she wrote. She included sections labeled “About us” (“local beer lovers, Nationals fans, and Jeopardy! Nerds”) and “About you” (“Also social distancing, ideally have kids around the same age and interested in a socially distant meetup to find out if we are a good fit for a bubble.”) Half a dozen women responded, and Watkins chatted with each of them online. They were all nearby and had kids of similar ages. Alas, none seemed like a perfect match.

The sticking point? Social distancing. Some had in-home child care, which meant their bubbles were already exponentially expanded in a way that feels too risky to Watkins and her family.

Oh well. “I put it out there into the world, and if nothing comes of it, we’ll be OK,” Watkins says. “It’s what we’ve been doing.”

What they’ve been doing. What they’ll keep doing. 

What else can you do? 

TikTok’s fate was shaped by ‘knockdown, drag-out’ Oval Office brawl #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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TikTok’s fate was shaped by ‘knockdown, drag-out’ Oval Office brawl

Aug 09. 2020

By The Washington Post · Ellen Nakashima, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Jeff Stein, Jay Greene · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY, POLITICS 

WASHINGTON – Last week, as leaders in Silicon Valley, China and Washington raced to seal the fate of one of the world’s fastest-growing social media companies, a shouting match broke out in the Oval Office between two of President Donald Trump’s top advisers.

In front of Trump, trade adviser Peter Navarro and other aides, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin began arguing that the Chinese-owned video-sharing service TikTok should be sold to a U.S. company. Mnuchin had talked several times to Microsoft’s senior leaders and was confident that he had rallied support within the administration for a sale to the tech giant on national security grounds.

Navarro pushed back, demanding an outright ban of TikTok, while accusing Mnuchin of being soft on China, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions freely. The treasury secretary appeared taken aback, they said.

The ensuing argument – which was described by one of the people as a “knockdown, drag-out” brawl – was preceded by months of backroom dealings among investors, lobbyists and executives. Many of these stakeholders long understood the critical nature of establishing close connections with key figures in the Trump administration.

But over the past few weeks, they also were reminded of the unpredictable and precarious nature of business dealings under a Trump-led government – and how the winner of a heated debate in front of the president could help decide the fate of a multibillion-dollar deal that may reshape the technology business landscape for years to come.

Over the past two weeks, TikTok’s future has been publicly tossed about, first as it appeared that the president would agree to a sale, then that he would ban it outright, then that he would allow a sale again – but only if a fee were paid to the U.S. Treasury.

Behind the scenes, an enormous amount of scrambling has happened in response to each twist and turn. And an executive order signed by the president Thursday night while on Air Force One – which would essentially shutter the U.S. operation of TikTok in 45 days unless it were sold – has sown more confusion about the future of one of the fastest-growing social media start-ups in the world. Few on the East or West coasts knew the order was coming.

The chaotic approach dates back to Trump’s days as a business executive, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a nonprofit, conservative issue advocacy group.

“It’s only effective in the moment, and it wears off in the long term,” said the former director of the Congressional Budget Office and former economic policy adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign. “It’s hard for the business community to figure out the direction of our policies.”

White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement that the administration “is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber-related threats to critical infrastructure, public health and safety, and our economic and national security.”

Treasury Department spokesperson Monica Crowley said in a statement that the department does not comment on the specifics of meetings with the president, though she confirmed that the secretary did participate in a meeting with the president to update him on national security recommendations.

“One of the great strengths of the Trump administration is the president’s reliance on strong, often opposing views, to reach decisions which are invariably in the best interests of the American people,” Navarro said in a statement. “Because this is true, it is critical for a strong America that ‘what happens in the Oval Office, should stay in the Oval Office’ so I have no comment on what is clearly a malicious leak riddled with hyperbole and misinformation.”

– – –

TikTok is considered one of the biggest technological success stories to come out of China. People around the world use the app to make short videos about their lives, pets and dance moves. Parent company ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming calls it a “window” into the world.

TikTok has 100 million U.S. users, many of whom are under 25 years old. Its success has drawn interest from prominent investors, including Sequoia Capital, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm. In 2014, its China arm made a prescient $35 million investment in TikTok’s parent company, giving it a stake that today is reportedly valued at more than $800 million. TikTok’s owner also acquired in 2017 for $1 billion, making it even more attractive to young users.

But with that success came scrutiny. TikTok was first identified as a potential national security threat in summer 2019, when U.S. officials approached ByteDance about concerns regarding its acquisition.

That turned into a formal national security investigation this year. It was led by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency body that screens foreign investment transactions for national security risks and recommends to the president on security grounds whether certain proposed acquisitions should be rejected, as well as completed acquisitions reversed.

In TikTok’s case, the app has been downloaded more than 175 million times in the United States, and like other apps accesses copious amounts of sensitive personal data, including Internet and browsing activity, location data and search histories. That information is potentially available to the Chinese government under a national intelligence law that requires any Chinese company to “support, assist and cooperate with state intelligence work.”

The news of the investigation sent shudders through the halls of Sequoia Capital. Global managing partner Doug Leone took the lead on advocating for TikTok with the Trump administration, telling people he could use his influence with Trump to help the company, according to a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation. Leone and his wife have given $100,000 to Trump’s reelection bid, and Leone sits on the president’s task force for reopening the economy, according to public records.

Leone also cultivated his relationship with Mnuchin and the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the person said. Sequoia is a co-investor in a health-care company with Kushner’s brother Josh.

Sequoia remains supportive of TikTok and the service it provides for millions of people, spokesperson Natalie Miyake said in a statement, and looks forward to the company reaching “a win-win solution for all parties” involved that is acceptable to the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, TikTok hired about a dozen lobbyists this year, one of whom ran Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania and has been described by the president as a good friend, according to a person familiar with the company who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss company matters. The lobbyist was a U.S. Military Academy classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also seen as a China hawk.

Publicly, TikTok started a campaign to convince the U.S. government that it was not a threat. The company has said that its app is mostly used for entertainment and that the app’s software code does not contain a back door that could be used for government surveillance. It began issuing transparency reports showing law enforcement requests for data and published the company’s source code. In May, Zhang hired Disney streaming chief Kevin Mayer as TikTok’s new CEO.

Zhang also began trying to decouple the company’s technology from China, and has pointed out that all the data on U.S. TikTok users is stored in the United States and backed up in Singapore. He has worked to separate TikTok’s software code and algorithms from the larger ByteDance conglomerate, which owns several apps in China.

Throughout this year, Zhang and his investors were confident that the concerns of the U.S. federal government could be resolved without ByteDance having to spin off TikTok. But things changed quickly after India outright banned the app at the end of June. At that point, the company and investors started hearing a different message from the White House, and it seemed increasingly possible that the anti-China members of the administration would prevail in breaking up the company.

Throughout July, investors and TikTok’s lobbyists, working privately with the administration, scrambled to come up with other plans, and numerous ideas were floated in what one person familiar with the discussions called an “iterative process.”

One plan involved bringing in a third-party U.S. company with knowledge of technology as a contractor to assure the security of TikTok. In another plan, investors proposed spinning off TikTok from ByteDance, with the investors buying a large share of the new independent company but allowing Zhang to maintain control through a minority stake. That plan involved bringing in another technology company as an investor to ensure security, the people said.

Zhang at one point considered relocating ByteDance’s headquarters to London, and moving there personally, to showcase ByteDance as a global company that was not controlled by Beijing, according to another person.

But this summer, as it became increasingly possible that administration hard-liners could prevail in breaking up the company, Zhang grew disappointed with how the process was playing out and approached Microsoft about a sale, according to the people. Zhang had previously worked at Microsoft’s offices in China in 2008 for six months, and maintained an admiration for the company. Earlier this year, he hired 24-year Microsoft veteran Erich Andersen to be ByteDance’s general counsel.

Other tech giants that have the financial wherewithal to buy the company have regulatory challenges that could make an acquisition more complex. The chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google appeared last week before a House subcommittee investigating tech giants’ abuse of their power. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

That gives Microsoft significant leverage. TikTok could help the 45-year-old software giant expand into social media, as well as bolster its ambitions to develop artificial intelligence systems, but the company has thrived financially in recent years on the strength of its business selling cloud computing services. That strengthens its hand as it negotiates to acquire TikTok.

Feeling increasingly boxed in, Zhang offered to sell to Microsoft.

– – –

As the election approaches, Trump has increasingly lashed out at China, blaming it for the novel coronavirus and national security issues. Over the past few months, he has deployed a rarely used order to require the divestment of acquisitions from Chinese firms, as well as issuing executive orders to limit business dealings.

“I think Trump’s instincts are to be aggressive toward China,” said one former U.S. official. “Navarro’s like the devil on his shoulder, saying, ‘Do it, do it.’ Mnuchin is more like a governor, trying to slow everything down – ‘What about Wall Street? What about Phase 2 [of the trade deal]?’ “

During the Oval Office meeting, the debate turned into a “vicious” fight, with Trump looking on, one of the people said. They noted that the two advisers have a contentious history: They got into an expletive-filled shouting match during a May 2018 trip to Beijing.

As of last week, the CFIUS agencies were unanimous that TikTok needed an American partner, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal negotiations. TikTok lawyers were working with the administration team on an orderly transition, according to the person. “The expectation at Microsoft and at TikTok was the president was going to sign off on what CFIUS said, and off we go,” the person said. “Instead, it’s just been this roller coaster.”

As Trump went to board the helicopter before flying to Tampa just over a week ago on July 31, he sounded unsure of his plans. “We may be banning TikTok,” Trump told reporters before leaving for Florida. “We may be doing some other things. There are a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok.”

Later that evening, as he flew back aboard Air Force One to Washington, he told reporters that he had made a decision to ban it, and that he was not in favor of a deal. By Sunday, Microsoft announced that it had persuaded the president and would continue talks with a deadline of Sept. 15.

“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns,” the company wrote in a blog post.

On Monday, Trump reiterated while speaking to reporters at the White House that he wants TikTok to be forced to cease operations in the United States by about Sept. 15 if it is not sold to Microsoft or another U.S.-based company. If that sale goes through, the president said, part of the proceeds should be paid to U.S. taxpayers as compensation for operating in America.

“A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the treasury of the United States,” Trump said of the potential TikTok sale. “The United States should be reimbursed or paid because without the United States they don’t have anything.”

Tax experts say there is no legal way to take “a substantial portion” for the Treasury. But the vague threat allowed him to appear to be imposing a punitive measure on China and TikTok – which some of his aides have pushed for fervently – without taking action so dramatic that it would cause a dangerous escalation.

Lawyers familiar with CFIUS reviews said the treasury does typically collect money during the process, because companies are required to pay modest fees to cover the cost of the review. The fees are based on the size of the proposed transaction and cannot exceed $300,000.

After Trump changed his mind to support a sale to Microsoft, Navarro on Monday accused the tech giant in a CNN interview of being too close to China, citing its prior cooperation with the government and the use of Bing and Skype in the country. He suggested Microsoft could divest its Chinese holdings.

“The question is, is Microsoft going to be compromised?” he asked.

With the clock ticking, analysts expect the purchase price to run into the tens of billions of dollars, a price only a few companies can afford. Microsoft had $136.5 billion in cash and easy-to-access funds at the end of June.

But those involved in a potential deal were again thrown off balance again late Thursday, left in the dark about the president’s plans.

While flying on Air Force One on Thursday, Trump issued two executive orders effectively banning U.S. transactions for TikTok parent ByteDance, citing national security concerns. An acquisition by Microsoft of TikTok during that period would still be allowed.

TikTok said in a statement it posted online Friday that it may take legal action to challenge the order.

“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” the company said. “For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the U.S. government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed. What we encountered instead was that the administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

Galaxy Note 20, Z Fold 2 unveiled at first-ever online Galaxy Unpacked show #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Galaxy Note 20, Z Fold 2 unveiled at first-ever online Galaxy Unpacked show

Aug 06. 2020Samsung President Roh Tae-moon introduces Galaxy Note 20 lineup on Wednesday. (Samsung Electronics)Samsung President Roh Tae-moon introduces Galaxy Note 20 lineup on Wednesday. (Samsung Electronics)

By Song Su-hyun
The Korea Herald/ANN

GOYANG, Gyeonggi Province  — Defining the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis as the “new normal,” Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest smartphone provider, unveiled its second flagship model for the year Galaxy Note 20 and four new upgraded mobile gadgets during its first-ever online showcase event, streamed live from a studio in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday night.

Held at the heavily guarded CJ ENM Studio in the planned new city of Ilsan, the noncontact version of the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked show was strictly blocked from any access attempted by those other than Samsung officials, to keep the company’s most crucial mobile event away from any virus infection risks.

“Never before have we relied on technology like we are today. It’s how we are staying connected as we navigate the extraordinary challenges faced around the world,” said Roh Tae-moon, president of Samsung’s mobile business. “Technology must make life easier, not more complex. That’s why we have introduced five new power devices.”

“Alone, these devices are powerful tools to help you maximize work and play,” he said. “Together, as part of the Galaxy ecosystem, they work together seamlessly so you can spend your time focused on what matters most.”

Through the event, Samsung introduced the Korean tech giant’s highest-level technological improvements made for mobile products: the Galaxy Note 20 phablet, Galaxy Z Fold 2 foldable smartphone, Galaxy Tab S7 tablet, Galaxy Buds Live wireless noise-canceling earbuds and the Galaxy Watch 3 smartwatch.

Samsung poured out the five new gadgets at the same time during the show that was streamed for over one and a half hours starting from 11 p.m. here, but the tech titan had planned to shine a spotlight on the Galaxy Note 20 series, the 11th edition of the phablet-like device with a stylus pen.

Among others, President Roh highlighted that the Galaxy Note 20 will be as productive as a computer, while providing a strong gaming performance like a console. 

Galaxy Note 20 (Samsung Electronics)Galaxy Note 20 (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung will roll out two new Note models — the 6.7-inch Galaxy Note 20 and 6.9-inch Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — starting from Aug. 21 globally.

Rather than fresh features, the Note 20 models boast enhanced S Pen functions and gaming quality.

The newest S Pen for Note 20 offers the fastest response speed among existing S Pens, 80 percent faster than Note 10’s S Pen, providing users with an almost-real handwriting experience, Samsung said.

Its Air Actions function has also been improved, as it can recognize a greater variety of movements, allowing the pen to remotely control the smartphone in any display environment.

Samsung has also strengthened the Note 20’s connection with the Windows 10 operating system, allowing users to jump from their smartphones to PCs or vice versa, more freely.

Microsoft’s Your Phone app with Link to Windows integration will enable Note 20 users to easily access their mobile apps directly from a Windows 10 PC without disrupting flow.

It will be simpler and more convenient to send messages, manage notifications, sync photos and make and receive calls from Windows 10 PCs, the company said.

Users can also add their favorite mobile apps to the taskbar or start menu on Windows 10-based PCs to access social networking apps or the gallery on a smartphone.

And for the first time in the Note series, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra offers a vivid and bright Dynamic AMOLED 2X display and 120-hertz refresh rate, delivering buttery smooth visuals on its best screen yet, which automatically adjusts to the content users are viewing to optimize battery life.

Sporting an all-day intelligent battery and Super Fast Charging capabilities, users can get more than 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes.

Samsung also unveiled the much anticipated Galaxy Z Fold 2, the second edition of the Galaxy Fold, during the event.

The tablet PC-like foldable smartphone sports a 6.2-inch cover display and a 7.6-inch main display that can be described as almost bezel-less.

Samsung described the Galaxy Z Fold 2 as bringing meaningful innovations to offer users enhanced refinements and unique foldable user experiences.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 comes in either mystic black or mystic bronze that is the signature color for the newset lineup.

For users who seek a unique premium design, Samsung is again partnering with iconic New York fashion house Thom Browne to deliver a limited Galaxy Z Fold 2 Thom Browne Edition.

The foldable gadget is expected to hit the market next month. 

New Galaxy products (Samsung Electronics)New Galaxy products (Samsung Electronics)

As much as for the smartphones, expectations are also running high for Samsung’s new wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live. As widely rumored, the earbuds have adopted a new design like a bean for a more comfortable fit.

Combining AKG’s sound expertise with a bigger, 12-millimeter speakers compared to the previous Galaxy Buds+, along with a bass duct, the Galaxy Buds Live offer audio sounds that are deeper and richer, Samsung said.

Like their rival Apple’s AirPods, the latest Samsung earbuds finally feature active noise cancellation for more live and spacious sound quality, with the ability for users to tune in or out of the world surrounding them.

The Galaxy Buds Live come with three microphones and the Voice Pickup Unit that enables users to feel like they are in the same room as others.

Samsung also showcased the Galaxy Watch 3 with advanced health features and Tab S7 series with greater portability, forming a stronger Galaxy ecosystem, during the online show.

Facebook, Twitter penalize Trump for posts containing coronavirus misinformation #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Facebook, Twitter penalize Trump for posts containing coronavirus misinformation

Aug 06. 2020


Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday took extraordinary action against President Donald Trump for spreading coronavirus misinformation after his official and campaign accounts broke their rules, respectively.

Facebook removed from Trump’s official account the post of a video clip from a Fox News interview in which he said that children are “almost immune” from covid-19. Twitter required his Team Trump campaign account to delete a tweet with the same video, blocking it from tweeting in the interim. 

In the removed video, president Trump can be heard in a phone interview saying schools should open. He goes on to say, “If you look at children, children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – but almost immune from this disease,” and that they have stronger immune systems.

The twin actions came three months before the elections in which Trump’s performance on coronavirus is a key issue, and the social media companies have made it clear in recent months that they will not tolerate misinformation on the global pandemic.

The decision represents something of an about face for Facebook, whose chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has long been a proponent of free speech on his site. Zuckerberg under pressure in late June said the company will remove posts that incite violence or attempt to suppress voting – even from political leaders – and that the company will affix labels on posts that violate hate speech or other policies.

Twitter, meanwhile, has taken a more aggressive stance, flagging several of Trump’s tweets for misinformation and even blocking his son, Donald Trump Jr., from tweeting for 12 hours for breaking its coronavirus misinformation rules. 

Twitter said it hid the campaign’s post and said the account wouldn’t be able to tweet again until it’s deleted, although it can appeal the decision. The Trump campaign account was active again late Wednesday night. Trump’s personal account also reshared the video originally posted by Team Trump, but it was removed after the original tweet was blocked.

Twitter spokeswoman Liz Kelley said the tweet “is in violation of the Twitter Rules on covid-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.” 

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said, “This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from covid-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation.”

A Trump campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While many children have had milder symptoms from the virus, researchers have found they are still able to catch and spread it to other people, including adults at home and in school settings, such as teachers.

“They get it and can transmit it, but they get it less and transmit it less than adults,” said Dr. Theodore Ruel, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Global Health at UCSF. He says the word “immunity” is incorrect in this context but that children, especially younger ones, are less of a risk than adults.

More than 240,000 children in the U.S. have been documented to have Covid-19, according to the CDC. Around 300 children have contracted a rare inflammatory diseases due to Covid called multi-system inflammatory syndrome, and six have died.

Ruel says that with proper protocols, including masking and social distancing, and a working testing and contact tracing program, schools for younger children could be safe enough to reopen.

“A well run school is going to be just as safe if not safer than a grocery store,” said Ruel. “But we have to make it safe for both [teachers and kids], and we have to recognize it is a risk for both if we want to reopen schools.”

As the start of the school year rolls around, school districts across the country have been torn on how to proceed. With rising covid-19 case numbers across the country, many large districts have decided to start the year virtually, with online classes. Other’s have opted to go ahead with in-person classes, like in Georgia. Gwinnett County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, reported 260 district employees had tested positive for the virus or been exposed to someone who had.

Facebook previously deactivated dozens of ads placed by President Trump’s reelection campaign that included a symbol once used by the Nazis to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.

Facebook has faced increasing pressure to better moderate its site. More than 1,000 advertisers have joined a boycott regarding its civil rights record, including Disney and Verizon. And nearly two dozen state attorneys general sent a letter criticizing the company earlier Wednesday.

The shifts are at least a partial retreat from the company’s traditional deference to speech it deems “newsworthy.” That includes Facebook’s decision to not label or remove a post by Trump that said, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” 

Twitter, which affixed a warning label on a similar post, has been more forceful at responding to what they deemed to be policy violations, including from politicians.

Twitter has labeled several tweets from the president for being misleading, including on fraudulent mail-in ballots. Twitter late last month ordered the president’s son to delete a misleading tweet with hydroxychloroquine misinformation and limited the account for 12 hours.

Zuckerberg faced tough questions from lawmakers a week ago while testifying on Capitol Hill along with other big tech CEOs on antitrust issues. Several Republicans asked him pointed questions regarding whether the company censors conservative voices.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., asked Zuckerberg about specific incidents in which the lawmaker alleged that Facebook executives may have used the service to downplay disadvantage conservative viewpoints.

Zuckerberg said that the company aims “to be a platform for all ideas” and that he does not want Facebook to be ideologically biased.

President’s son Donald Jr. on Twitter calls for blocking Alaska mine in sensitive fishing area #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

President’s son Donald Jr. on Twitter calls for blocking Alaska mine in sensitive fishing area

Aug 05. 2020

By The Washington Post · Steven Mufson, Brady Dennis, Ashley Parker · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, POLITICS, SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT 

WASHINGTON – The president’s namesake and the vice president’s former top staffer both tweeted Tuesday asking President Donald Trump to block a giant gold and copper mine from being built at the head waters of the world’s greatest sockeye salmon fishery in Alaska.

Just last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a final environmental analysis allowing a small Canadian firm to go ahead with its Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay. The Army Corps in its new report said the project would not cause grave harm to the region’s watershed.

But Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff, said in a tweet that “Like millions of conservationists and sportsmen, I am hoping @realDonaldTrump will direct @EPA to block the Pebble mine in Bristol Bay. A Canadian company will unnecessarily mine the USA’s greatest fishery at a severe cost. This should be stopped and I believe @POTUS will do so!”

Shortly afterwards, Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Ayers’ comment and said: “As a sportsman who has spent plenty of time in the area I agree 100%. The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to take any chances with. #PebbleMine”

In an interview, Ayers said “one of my greatest memories as a child was with my father either fishing or hunting and I think one of the things that every outdoorsman and hunter and fisherman thinks about is how he could leave that to their kids or grandkids.”

Ayers, who has been to Alaska’s salmon fishing grounds, which he called “truly one of the greatest places on the planet,” added, “It would be unspeakable to let a foreign company mine an ecosystem important for the food supply chain.”

Donald Jr. declined to comment, but a person familiar with his thinking said that the tweet reflected his own personal views as a sportsman. The president’s son has vacationed and fished in Alaska’s Bristol Bay for years and has been following the debate over building the gold and copper mine. Although generally supportive of drilling and energy expansion, Trump’s son believes that Alaska’s Bristol Bay is a risky place to put a mine because one misstep could be devastating.

The person familiar with his thinking, however, did not say whether Donald Jr. had discussed it recently with the president, but noted that Donald Jr. had raised the issue with his father as far back as the presidential transition.

The tweets breathed a bit of hope into anxious environmental and conservation groups.

“His personal engagement reflects the unique diversity of opposition across the political spectrum to the Pebble Mine, including among conservatives who appreciate the need to protect the extraordinary Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery,” said Joel Reynolds, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, about the tweet from Trump, Jr.

Reynolds pointed to the range of opponents – a group that includes salmon fishermen, Alaska native tribes, environmental groups and even mining-friendly lawmakers such as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. – who have fought to kill the project during the nearly two-decade fight over whether to allow it. NRDC is also among the groups that have opposed the project.

“It just shows how broad the opposition is to this particular project,” said Reynolds. He too hopes that the Trump administration will intervene to stop it, though it has shown no inclination to do so.

Asked about the president’s son, Pebble Partnership, the Canadian mining company behind the project, referred to the finding issued just days ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, which found that the mine would not post serious environmental risks. That marked a sharp reversal from a finding by the Obama administration that it would permanently harm the region’s unique sockeye salmon fishery.

The final environmental impact statement issued in late July by the Army Corp “shows that both Donald Trump, Jr., and Nick Ayers are wrong,” a company spokesman said in an emailed statement. “The EIS concludes that the Pebble mine will not harm the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. We remain confident that the [Army Corps] will issue a [record of decision] in the next few months. We do not believe that the President will interfere with this statutory process.”

Much is at stake. The gold and copper mine would transform an area that is now dominated by a $1.4 billion commercial, recreational and subsistence salmon fishery. Pebble Partnership is planning a mine that will span more than 13 miles and require the construction of a 270-megawatt power plant, a natural gas pipeline, an 82-mile double-lane road, elaborate storage facilities and the dredging of a port at Iliamna Bay. Trucks would make more than a dozen round trips a day to transport the minerals.

The ultimate decision on the Alaskan mine is with President Trump, who is trying to polish his environmental bona fides ahead of Election Day after his administration spent years rolling back environmental rules.

Trump spent Tuesday morning comparing himself to President Theodore Roosevelt, the Republican Party’s best known conservationist, while signing a bipartisan bill called the Great American Outdoors Act. The law expands funding to fix the crumbling roads, trails and other infrastructure in national parks and other outdoor areas.

“This is a very big deal,” Trump said at the White House signing ceremony. “And from an environmental standpoint and from just the beauty of our country standpoint, there hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect.”

Pence’s former chief of staff Ayers, now a private equity investor, said he also admired Roosevelt. “It just boils down to this,” he said of the Pebble mine. “I love the outdoors and conservation and this would be a tragedy and travesty for this project to move forward.”