Colorado wildfire grows by at least 140,000 acres in a day, forcing hundreds to flee #SootinClaimon.Com

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Colorado wildfire grows by at least 140,000 acres in a day, forcing hundreds to flee

Oct 25. 2020

By The Washington Post · Andrew Freedman · NATIONAL, SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT 

A dire wildfire crisis is unfolding in Colorado after a blaze exploded sixfold in size in just 24 hours, growing to about 170,000 acres on Thursday evening.

The East Troublesome Fire, burning in Grand County and extending now into Rocky Mountain National Park, forced hundreds to quickly evacuate from Grand Lake and Granby overnight, with more evacuations taking place Thursday and an unknown number of structures reportedly destroyed.

The blaze has all the hallmarks of climate change. It’s burning at an elevation of 9,000 feet at a time of year when snow should be falling. The fire is also raging during a severe drought, aggravated by record heat, through stands of trees killed or weakened by a bark beetle infestation.

The East Troublesome Fire is now the second-largest wildfire in Colorado history. Three of the state’s five largest wildfires on record have now occurred in 2020. The largest, the Cameron Peak Fire, is still burning just west of Fort Collins.

Noel Livingston, who leads the team of firefighters tackling this blaze as incident commander for Pacific Northwest Team Three, said that crews saw an “amazing amount of fire spread yesterday.” In an afternoon press briefing Thursday, Livingston said the 100,000 acres of fire growth that occurred late Wednesday and into Thursday morning is “really unheard of for a fire in this part of the world in timber.”

At times, National Weather Service Doppler radar showed the smoke plume from the blaze towering almost 40,000 feet above the surface, a sign of extreme fire behavior. Typically, at such a high elevation in the state, the weather at this time of year would not result in such a high wildfire danger. Instead, a red flag warning for “critical” fire weather risk is in effect through 7 p.m. local time Thursday, with winds forecast to gust up to 50 mph, making efforts to increase fire containment difficult.

“We saw about 20 miles of fire growth throughout the day and throughout the night, which equated to about 100,000 acres of additional fire activity,” Livingston said.

Livingston said the fire burned quickly through heavily forested areas north of Granby and Grand Lake. A pre-evacuation notice was issued for Granby on Thursday.

The fire jumped the continental divide in Rocky Mountain National Park, despite being areas that are above the tree line. That is an extremely rare occurrence and puts new downwind areas to the east, such as Estes Park, at risk. A merging of this fire with the Cameron Peak Fire is even possible, Livingston said during a news conference Thursday morning.

Evacuation orders for the national park and parts of Estes Park were issued, with traffic backups reported Thursday afternoon for people leaving Estes Park. On Thursday afternoon, the sky in Estes Park had turned dark as night, contrasted against the lights from cars backing up on local roads out of town.

The ingredients for the massive, rapid growth of this fire, Livingston said, were the thick stands of trees, many of which had been weakened or killed by beetle invasions in recent years, a phenomena linked to climate change that is occurring across vast stretches of the West and into Canada.

As temperatures have increased in Colorado, it has given once-scarce pests, including mountain bark beetles, that were held in check by extremely cold winter temperatures, an opportunity to spread and damage or destroy trees. Studies have shown that in some ecosystems, these dead or weakened trees can accelerate blazes, while in others they may actually slow down some wildfires.

Livingston also pointed to extremely dry conditions and strong winds that pushed the fire through the timbered areas. Winds near the fire were gusting to 60 mph at times on Wednesday.

Winds are predicted to remain strong for the next two days, said Nick Nauslar, a predictive-services meteorologist with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. He noted in an interview that at 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, near the fire at 8,500 feet in elevation, the air temperature was 70 degrees and winds were gusting to 68 mph.

“That’s pretty rare just in the summer for 8,500 feet, let alone late October,” Nauslar said, since normally it would be colder at that height. “I’ve used the word ‘unprecedented’ before and I’m starting to run out of adjectives to describe what’s happening this fire season,” he said.

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin published a Facebook video around 1 a.m. Thursday explaining how tough the night had been.

“I have a message,” he said. “I’m not even sure what those words are. Today [Wednesday] has been an extremely, extremely challenging day for our community. We knew this fire was here. We knew the impacts of it. We looked at every possible potential for this fire. We never, ever expected 6,000 acres per hour to come upon our community.”

The winds were strong and, as a result, the fire’s behavior was as well.

“As we drive around this northern part of Grand County, I don’t know what we’ll see in the morning, to be honest,” he said. “But you know what? Together, as a community, we’re going to get through this.”

The forecast for Thursday calls for more high winds and low relative humidity in the region of the fire.

“Unfortunately, today is another fire day,” Livingston said. “We have forecasted high winds coming in this afternoon with a cold front[al] passage. We have again forecasted dry conditions. And we obviously have a lot of available fuel this fire could continue to spread in.

“We anticipate another day of large fire growth,” Livingston said.

The state Colorado is suffering drought conditions for the first time since 2013. Human-caused climate change is sparking more frequent and intense wildfires in much of the West, along with an extension of the wildfire season, studies show. Higher air temperatures are worsening droughts, as well.

California is also experiencing a record wildfire season. More than 4.1 million acres have burned, and more than 9,200 homes and other structures destroyed since Jan. 1. California wildfires have killed 31 people so far this year, with more high winds in the forecast for the next week, which could spread any new blazes that ignite.

State, federal antitrust charges against Facebook could come as soon as November, sources say #SootinClaimon.Com

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State, federal antitrust charges against Facebook could come as soon as November, sources say

Oct 24. 2020

By The Washington Post · Tony Romm · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY, POLITICS, COURTSLAW 
WASHINGTON – State and federal investigators are expected to file antitrust charges against Facebook as soon as November, according to four people familiar with the matter, embarking on a massive legal challenge against the tech giant and its perceived, ironclad grip over social media.

The timing reflects a frenzy of recent activity on the part of the Federal Trade Commission, which met privately Thursday to discuss the probe, and state attorneys general, who under the leadership of New York’s Letitia James have been scrutinizing Facebook for potential threats to competition, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a law-enforcement matter.

The timeline could still change, cautioned the people familiar with the probe, adding that work is ongoing. The FTC, in particular, has not yet voted to bring a case against Facebook, though the people said a meeting of its Democratic and Republican members this week – first reported by The Washington Post – involved presentations illustrating how the agency might proceed. State attorneys general, meanwhile, are in the later stages of preparing a complaint, according to the sources.

A lawsuit against Facebook would be the second major antitrust action against Silicon Valley in a matter of weeks. The U.S. government joined 11 states to sue Google on Tuesday over allegations that it engaged in illegal, anti-competitive tactics to ensure the dominance of its search engine.

Facebook and the FTC declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for the attorney general of New York.

Federal officials initiated their antitrust probe into Facebook last year after the company agreed to pay $5 billion to settle a government probe over a series of privacy scandals. The FTC, one of the country’s two competition enforcement agencies, specifically set its sights on Facebook’s purchase of its past rivals – Instagram, a photo-sharing app, and WhatsApp, a messenger service – and the extent to which the tech giant’s sprawling corporate footprint has come to violate antitrust laws.

State investigators revealed their own plans last October: Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, said at the time she would lead 46 other states and territories in a bipartisan, wide-ranging antitrust inquiry targeting Facebook. James said in a statement then that state enforcers had grown “concerned that Facebook may have put consumer data at risk, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, and increased the price of advertising.”

Since then, Facebook has faced a slew of criticism from regulators nationwide who believe it brazenly has sought to expand its digital empire in a way that undermines competition and leaves its billions of users with worse service, including fewer privacy protections. A probe conducted by House lawmakers, concluded earlier this month, appeared to furnish fresh evidence of the company’s brass-knuckled tactics – illustrating for members of Congress the extent to which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had sought to neuter potential rivals before they could mount a serious challenge.

One memo showed Facebook leaders discussing a “land grab” to acquire its possible threats. Another 2018 document prepared for Zuckerberg seemed to suggest Facebook felt its greatest competition came from its own subsidiary apps. Investigators led by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the chairman of the House antitrust committee, said the trove they amassed ultimately showed how Facebook’s past purchases “tipped the social networking market toward a monopoly.”

Facebook staunchly has rebutted the charges, pointing to the fact that federal regulators had the chance to prevent it from acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp and did not. The company’s arguments foreshadow the likelihood of a major, lengthy legal battle between the tech giant and state and federal antitrust enforcers that try to exact severe penalties for Facebook’s business practices.

“Acquisitions are part of every industry, and just one way we innovate new technologies to deliver more value to people,” Facebook spokesman Chris Sgro said in a statement this month in response to lawmakers’ report. “Instagram and WhatsApp have reached new heights of success because Facebook has invested billions in those businesses.”

NASA says it collected a large sample from the asteroid Bennu. Maybe too large #SootinClaimon.Com

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NASA says it collected a large sample from the asteroid Bennu. Maybe too large.

Oct 24. 2020

By  The Washington Post · Christian Davenport · NATIONAL, WORLD, SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT 
The spacecraft that reached out and grabbed a sample from an asteroid earlier this week may have collected so much material it prevented the lid of the sample holder from closing properly, allowing some of the precious dust and rocks to leak out, NASA officials said Friday evening.

Now the space agency is faced with the daunting task of stowing away the materials it does have without spilling a significant amount, a delicate procedure made all the more difficult by the weightless environment of space and the fact that the spacecraft is some 200 million miles away.

On Tuesday, an arm of the OSRIS-REx spacecraft, designed by Lockheed Martin, touched the surface of the asteroid Bennu, fired nitrogen gas that stirred up gravel and dust to be captured by a collection device.

But the blast appears to have kicked up so much gravel and dust that some of it got jammed in the device, keeping the lid open. Still, NASA officials said they were confident that they have a large sample – far more than the 60 grams required – and will be able to stow the collection device away without too much leaking out.

“I am highly confident that the [operation] was successful, that it collected abundant mass,” said Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator of the mission. There was “definitely evidence of hundreds of grams of material, and possibly more. My big concern now is that the particles are escaping. Because we were almost a victim of our own success here, and some of the largest particles left the . . . flap open.”

Instead of trying to measure the amount of material collected, as originally planned, NASA now plans to store the collection device in the return capsule as early as Tuesday. In the meantime, it is holding the spacecraft and collection device as steady as possible, fearful that any additional movement will cause more material to spill out.

“I was pretty concerned when I saw these images coming in, and I think the most prudent course of action is to very safely stow what we have and minimize any future mass loss,” Lauretta said.

But scientists won’t know exactly how much material was collected until the spacecraft returns to Earth -in 2023.

“We’re going to have to wait till we get home to know precisely how much we have and as you can imagine that’s hard,” he said. “But the good news is we see a lot of material so where we are in the positive situation of having a lot more than the 60 grams that was required here.”

The mission was the first time NASA has ever taken a sample from one of the estimated 1 million asteroids in the solar system. Scientists believe the material could shed light on how the universe was formed and how water ended up on Earth.

More than 4.5 billion years old, Bennu is as large as the Empire State Building and looks like a giant walnut that scientists believe is full of scientific riches, such as carbon and water locked away inside clay materials.

Huawei out-hustles Trump by stockpiling chips needed for China 5G #SootinClaimon.Com

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Huawei out-hustles Trump by stockpiling chips needed for China 5G

Oct 23. 2020An attendee wearing a protective face mask passe the Huawei Technologies Co. stand during the IFA Consumer Electronics Show at the Berlin Messe exhibition hall in Berlin on Sept. 4, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Jacobia DahmAn attendee wearing a protective face mask passe the Huawei Technologies Co. stand during the IFA Consumer Electronics Show at the Berlin Messe exhibition hall in Berlin on Sept. 4, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Jacobia Dahm 

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · No Author · BUSINESS

Huawei Technologies Co. quietly spent months racing to stockpile critical radio chips ahead of Trump administration sanctions, ensuring it can keep supplying Chinese carriers in their $170 billion rollout of 5G technology through at least 2021.

A customer service assistant wearing a protective face mask serves a customer inside a Huawei Technologies Co. store in Pretoria, South Africa, on Aug. 12, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Waldo Swiegers

A customer service assistant wearing a protective face mask serves a customer inside a Huawei Technologies Co. store in Pretoria, South Africa, on Aug. 12, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Waldo Swiegers

Partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. began ramping up output in late 2019 of Huawei’s 7-nanometer Tiangang communications chips, the most crucial element in 5G base stations, people familiar with the matter said. The Taiwanese contract manufacturer eventually shipped more than 2 million units at Huawei’s behest ahead of the sanctions cutoff last month, one of the people said, asking not be identified discussing internal matters. The sheer magnitude of orders at one point got TSMC executives wondering whether they had underestimated global demand, the person said.

Huawei’s breakthrough in securing essential supplies underscores the mixed success of a U.S. campaign against China’s largest tech company since 2018. Citing national security concerns, the White House started by trying to curtail the sale of American software and circuitry to Huawei before finally enacting sweeping restrictions against its suppliers including TSMC. It’s that last salvo, a ban on the sale of ready-made, commercially available semiconductors, that finally kneecapped Huawei’s smartphone business and forced it to curtail device production, the people said. Representatives for Huawei and TSMC declined to comment.

But the Tiangang chip, designed in-house by secretive division HiSilicon, has proven pivotal to keeping the 5G business afloat. Huawei had leaned on TSMC in the months before Washington shut that loophole and it can now continue to supply China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp. and China Unicom — the carrier trio now aggressively building out a nationwide 5G network Beijing considers instrumental to driving the world’s No. 2 economy. A China Mobile representative declined to comment for this story. A China Telecom spokesperson said the company will communicate any impact from curbs on Huawei but declined to comment on discussions about chip supply. Unicom representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“The U.S. has demonstrated an intense will to restrict Huawei’s ability to offer 5G technologies. The U.S. government’s assertions of extraterritoriality have made it more difficult for Huawei to maintain access to critical components,” said Dan Wang, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics. In 2012, just a third of Huawei’s revenue was generated in China — that closed in on two-thirds last year. “Huawei is more dependent on domestic sales due to both U.S. pressure as well as its strong hold over the fast-growing China market.”

Huawei told Chinese wireless operators its component inventory was fully capable of supporting base station construction in 2021 and beyond despite U.S. sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter. The company has started shipping 5G base stations without American components since at least the end of last year.

It’s unclear how long those stocks can last. Rotating Chairman Guo Ping said last month the company has “sufficient” inventory for its communications equipment business, but is seeking supplies for the smartphone unit.

Even assuming Huawei has cached enough silicon for Chinese clients’ purposes, it may have had to make sacrifices in performance because of shortages in second-tier components. Resorting to less-sophisticated local alternatives may hinder areas such as power consumption rate, the people said. To rectify that, Huawei’s promised to compensate carriers for part of that additional electricity expense, they said. A typical 5G base station consumes roughly four times the power of a standard 4G model.

While Washington is gaining ground in efforts to pressure allies from Australia to the U.K. to shun Huawei equipment, the Chinese company’s main source of income remains its own home country. Huawei has so far won more than half of the 5G orders from state-owned carriers this year, securing contracts worth billions of dollars, Bloomberg News reported earlier.

Chinese carriers have built 690,000 5G base stations since the technology was commercialized about a year ago, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The nation’s carriers have yet to announce base station procurement plans for 2021, but ministry officials said the country’s network buildup will continue over the next three years.

TikTok will better explain video takedowns in lead-up to election #SootinClaimon.Com

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TikTok will better explain video takedowns in lead-up to election

Oct 23. 2020

By The Washington Post · Rachel Lerman · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, WORLD, TECHNOLOGY, POLITICSSAN FRANCISCO

TikTok will issue more detailed notifications when it removes videos for violating its policies, the company said Thursday, as social media companies continue to work to clarify their content policies in the lead-up to the election.

TikTok’s new notifications will pop up when the video app removes a post, and tell users exactly which policy they violated with a link to the app’s rules. Previously, TikTok did not tell users which policy they violated, leading to confusion that creators often expressed in subsequent videos.

TikTok has been working to expand its content rules and safeguards against misinformation and hate speech this year, including launching an election guide within the app and prohibiting deepfake videos. The company also confirmed this week it will remove posts supporting white nationalism, in addition to neo-Nazi content it already removed.

But like fellow social media companies Twitter and Facebook, TikTok still struggles to rid its site completely of misinformation – including the recent spread of false stories about Joe Biden’s health.

TikTok has been testing the new notifications announced Thursday for a few months, the company said in a blog post. It said the explanations have been helping reduce the number of repeat violations, and it saw a 14% reduction in appeals.

“By being more transparent with our content enforcement, we aim to ensure that our Community Guidelines are enforced uniformly and evenly,” TikTok wrote in its blog.

The company is also facing increased scrutiny from the U.S. government over its Chinese ownership and data security concerns, which has led to an ongoing lawsuit over a pending ban imposed by the Trump Administration.

TikTok was set to be banned from U.S. app stores on Sept. 27 following an order signed by President Donald Trump in August. But a judge blocked that ban with a last minute injunction and suggested the Trump Adminstration may have overreached by imposing it. The Justice Department is now appealing that decision.

A second part of the TikTok ban is still currently set to go into effect on Nov. 12, which would ban Internet hosting companies in the U.S. from working with TikTok, among other provisions. That ban could make it nearly impossible to use the app in the U.S.

A court hearing has been set for Nov. 4 to discuss TikTok’s request for that ban to be blocked.

TikTok is also pursuing another way to stop that ban – by striking a tentative deal with U.S. companies Oracle and Walmart, in hopes of satisfying regulator concerns that the Chinese government could potentially access U.S. data. Trump seemingly gave his blessing to the deal, but it has not been finalized and the parties still seemed to disagree on the ownership terms last month.

That would also potentially resolve another order signed by the president in August that requires Chinese parent company ByteDance to divest from TikTok in the U.S. by Nov. 12. TikTok is working with a government committee on that order, which could be extended by 30 days.

Google accused of abusing power in landmark antitrust case #SootinClaimon.Com

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Google accused of abusing power in landmark antitrust case

Oct 21. 2020

By China Daily

The US Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc’s Google, accusing it of abusing its monopoly in search in the most significant antitrust action against an American company in more than two decades — and possibly a century.

Google, which controls about 90 percent of the online search market in the US, is the “unchallenged gateway” to the internet and used anticompetitive practices to maintain and extend its monopoly in search, the government said in a complaint filed Tuesday in Washington.

“Google’s conduct is illegal under traditional antitrust principles and must be stopped,” Jeffrey Rosen, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official said on a conference call with reporters.

Google called the government’s lawsuit “deeply flawed.”

“People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives. We will have a full statement this morning,” the company said on Twitter.

Google’s shares rose less than 1 percent to US$1,542.43 at 10:45 am in New York trading.

The complaint is the first phase of what’s shaping up as a multi-pronged attack against Google. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is preparing a complaint against the company over its conduct in the digital-advertising market, where it controls much of the technology used by advertisers and publishers to buy and sell display ads across the web

The complaint is the first phase of what’s shaping up as a multi-pronged attack against Google. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is preparing a complaint against the company over its conduct in the digital-advertising market, where it controls much of the technology used by advertisers and publishers to buy and sell display ads across the web.

ALSO READ: Japan to work with US, Europe in regulating Big Tech firms

Google’s search business generates most of the company’s revenue and has funded its expansion into email, online video, smartphone software, maps, cloud computing, autonomous vehicles and display advertising. The search engine influences the fates of thousands of businesses online, which depend on Google to get in front of users.

“Google’s anticompetitive practices are especially pernicious because they deny rivals scale to compete effectively,” the US said in the complaint.

The advertising revenues that Google shares with search-distribution channels raise barriers to entry for rivals that can’t afford to pay a multi-billion-dollar entry fee, the US said. Those payoffs have allowed Google to create “continuous and self-reinforcing monopolies in multiple markets,” the US said.

Google began dominating online search 20 years ago with an algorithm that delivered results better than others’. Since then it has also relied on exclusive agreements and its own products, like its Android mobile operating system, to be the default search option for millions of users. That’s given it an insurmountable advantage over rivals, according to critics.

While it’s not illegal to be a monopoly under US law, it’s a violation for a dominant company to engage in exclusionary conduct to protect or strengthen its market power.

The Justice Department’s case, which Texas and 10 other states joined, is the first to emerge from an investigation of some of the largest technology companies initiated by Attorney General William Barr almost 15 months ago. It’s the most significant antitrust lawsuit since the US filed a case against Microsoft Corp in 1998 and marks a seismic shift away from the government’s mostly laissez-faire approach toward America’s tech giants.

Barr had championed the Google case by giving it a high priority and assigning his No. 2 to oversee it. 

In addition to the case being developed by Texas, another group of state attorneys general are conducting a separate investigation into Google’s search business, including allegations that it violated antitrust laws by favoring its own specialized search services over offerings from rivals like Yelp Inc.

The Google cases could be followed by a Federal Trade Commission case later this year against Facebook Inc joined by state attorneys general. In Congress, Representative David Cicilline intends to push legislation to curb the dominance of tech giants following findings of an investigation that Google, Facebook, Apple Inc, and Amazon.com Inc abused their power as gatekeepers in the digital economy.

The combined challenges could upend how the companies do business. If the government prevails, one or more of the tech goliaths could even be broken up — reminiscent of the way the antitrust crusades of the early 20th century led to the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against US tech firms, exposing the Justice Department to criticism that the case against Google is politically motivated.

ALSO READ: FT: EU drafting rules to force big tech firms to share data

It will likely be more than a year before the lawsuit goes to trial if it’s not settled first. That could mean a Joe Biden administration will be responsible for continuing the case if the former vice president defeats Trump in November. 

Google is expected to put up a fight and will be able to spare no expense with its defense. Its parent, Alphabet, is one of the world’s wealthiest companies with a market value of about US$1 trillion and projected 2020 sales of US$142 billion.

In hearings and court filings, the company has said it faces robust rivals in all its markets. It has argued that competition has helped lower the cost of online ads in recent years, and it has highlighted the money it makes for publishers and small businesses.

The House antitrust panel report found that Google has been able to build barriers to competition by becoming the default search engine on desktop and mobile internet browsers. In desktop browsers, Google search has default placement on Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Corp’s Firefox, amounting to 87 percent of the market, according to the report.

In mobile, Google search controls essentially the entire market because it’s the default search on its Android operating system and Apple’s iOS operating system. It pays Apple roughly US$8 billion a year for the privilege, according to estimates by analysts at Sanford C Bernstein & Co. And that’s not the only such agreement. Google also has deals with Mozilla’s Firefox as well as phone makers including Samsung Electronics Co.

The suit is the biggest monopoly case brought by the US since the Justice Department and a group of states accused Microsoft of illegally monopolizing the market for computer operating systems. That case, brought under former president Bill Clinton, nearly led to the company’s breakup.

There are also parallels between today’s widespread anti-big-tech sentiment and the Progressive Era push that lead to the breakup of Standard Oil. Oil was to the industrial base of the economy in the early 20th century, what data is to the 21st century economy.

The John D. Rockefeller empire began as a small refinery, but grew through acquisitions to control 90 percent of US oil production, refining and transportation. Along the way, Rockefeller amassed huge amounts of economic power, as did steel and railroad magnates. That also led to the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and ultimately Standard Oil’s dissolution.

READ MORE: How Big Tech companies gain and maintain dominance

Google, likewise, began as a small search engine and grew quickly through acquisitions such as YouTube in 2006 and the DoubleClick digital advertising company in 2007 to control vast swaths of the digital advertising ecosystem. Google also stockpiled immense troves of data — decades’ worth of consumer and business buying preferences and surfing habits — deepening its economic grip and making it harder for new entrants to challenge it.

Justice Department sues Google, alleging multiple violations of federal antitrust law #SootinClaimon.Com

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Justice Department sues Google, alleging multiple violations of federal antitrust law

Oct 21. 2020

By The Washington Post · Tony Romm · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY, COURTSLAW, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS 
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google over allegations that its search and advertising empire violated federal antitrust laws, launching what is likely to be a lengthy, bruising legal fight between Washington and Silicon Valley that could have vast implications for the entire tech industry.

The federal government’s landmark lawsuit caps off a roughly year-long investigation that concluded Google wielded its digital dominance to the detriment of corporate rivals and consumers. The complaint contends that Google relied on a mix of special agreements and other problematic business practices to secure an insurmountable lead in online search, capturing the market for nearly 90 percent of all queries in the United States.

Google gained its “grip on distribution,” the Justice Department said, by paying billions of dollars to become the default search application in Web browsers, on smartphones and across a wide array of other devices and services, including those offered by some of its competitors, such as Apple. This vast, unparalleled reach allowed Google to enrich itself through lucrative ads, maintain its online foothold and render it impossible for other search engines to compete, the federal lawsuit alleges.

In bringing its case, the Justice Department did not explicitly ask a judge to break apart Google. Instead, it urged the court to consider “structural relief,” which theoretically could include a requirement that the company sell a portion of its business and cease other practices that federal regulators see as harmful and unlawful.

“Absent a court order, Google will continue executing its anticompetitive strategy, crippling the competitive process, reducing consumer choice, and stifling innovation,” the Justice Department alleged in its complaint. “For the sake of American consumers, advertisers, and all companies now reliant on the internet economy, the time has come to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition.”

Google on Tuesday rejected the government’s claims as “deeply flawed.” Kent Walker, the company’s chief legal officer, defended Google’s business practices, arguing that consumers nationwide still have the choice to use its rivals’ online offerings.

“American antitrust law is designed to promote innovation and help consumers, not tilt the playing field in favor of particular competitors or make it harder for people to get the services they want,” Walker wrote in a blog post. “We’re confident that a court will conclude that this suit doesn’t square with either the facts or the law.”

An antitrust lawsuit marks the start, not the end, of the government’s antitrust fight with Google. It could take years for the courts to resolve whether the company violated the Sherman Act, a roughly century-old law that federal competition cops have previously put to use to combat tobacco, oil and telecommunications giants seen as threats to competition and consumers.

Eleven Republican attorneys general – from states including Louisiana, Florida and Texas – signed onto the Justice Department’s lawsuit. Other states are still probing Google on antitrust grounds and may choose later to join the federal case or opt to bring their own, threatening to widen the legal territory Google must cover to defend its business from serious, potentially far-reaching changes.

But the Justice Department’s filing alone still serves as a stunning turn of events for Google, marking the first major salvo in decades to challenge Silicon Valley’s size. It also follows roughly seven years after the government last probed the company for potential antitrust violations – and opted against suing Google or seeking significant penalties. The inaction in Washington for years had stood in stark contrast with the antitrust scrutiny Google has faced in Europe, where competition regulators over the past decade have slapped the Mountain View, Calif.-based technology behemoth with $9 billion in fines.

Since then, Democrats and Republicans have found rare accord in reexamining Google and looking anew at other Silicon Valley tech titans, fearing that they have become too big and powerful – and that the U.S. government had fallen far short in its responsibility to police them. The heightened concern has prompted a wave of probes targeting Apple, Amazon and Facebook, as well as a fresh effort to toughen federal antitrust laws in anticipation of future fights.

“Antitrust enforcement against Google is long overdue,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the chairman of the House’s top competition-focused panel.

The Justice Department began scrutinizing Google as part of a broad review of Big Tech announced last summer, with federal officials seeking to respond to what they described then as “widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.” That September, Google started turning over key, sensitive documents to the Justice Department for its investigation, the company acknowledged in a securities filing at the time.

Initially, agency officials signaled an interest in probing the company’s advertising business, which contributed the lion’s share of the company’s $162 billion in 2019 revenue. Quickly, though, the probe expanded to touch on a wider array of issues in response to a flurry of complaints from rival companies – from news publishers to travel review websites – that say Google wields its powerful search engine in myriad ways to entrench its dominance.

The federal case filed Tuesday ultimately hinges on several allegedly “pernicious” agreements brokered between Google with some of its rivals aimed at expanding the reach of its search engine. With its Android smartphone operating system, for instance, Google relies on formal arrangements with device manufacturers including Samsung and LG that force them to set the tech giant’s search as the default – or perhaps risk losing access to its other suite of coveted smartphone apps and services.

In other cases, Google shares some of its lucrative advertising revenue – totaling billions of dollars – with its rivals to secure the primacy of its search engine. Google provides similar payments to Apple, which then sets Google as the default search service on its iPhones as well as its voice-enabled assistant, Siri, the Justice Department alleges. The Apple arrangement is especially valuable: The iPhone giant reaps up to 20 percent of worldwide net income from Google revenue, the lawsuit contends, and Google at one point in 2019 attributed almost half of its search traffic as having originated on Apple devices.

In response, Google sharply rebuked the government’s characterization, stressing that users could easily change the search service they use on a wide array of devices and services, including Apple’s iPhone. In the eyes of the government, however, the tech giant “aggressively uses its monopoly positions, and the money that flows from them, to continuously foreclose rivals and protect its monopolies.”

Apple, Samsung and other tech giants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Months before the government filed its lawsuit, the federal probe had been shrouded in acrimony. The Justice Department and Google warred over the company’s apparent unwillingness to turn over documents that federal investigators described as critical to their work.

Within the agency, meanwhile, government lawyers have sparred among themselves over the timeline for bringing a case, particularly in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election. Dozens of agency staffers signaled this summer that they did not think they were ready to bring charges against Google, but Attorney General William P. Barr ultimately overruled them – and set the Justice Department on a course to file this month. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has attacked Google and other tech companies with claims that they are politically biased, leaving some critics fearful that political considerations fueled the government’s timing.

The federal investigation has proceeded in parallel with state probes commenced in September 2019 by nearly every Democratic and Republican attorney general. Some of the investigations have broadened to encompass more than advertising – touching on search and the extent to which Google further enhances its dominance through its Android operating system.

A handful of states including Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and New York issued a joint public statement Tuesday indicating they are still scrutinizing a wide array of Google’s business practices and may opt to join any federal case later.

“This is a historic time for both federal and state antitrust authorities, as we work to protect competition and innovation in our technology markets,” the statement said. “We plan to conclude parts of our investigation of Google in the coming weeks. If we decide to file a complaint, we would file a motion to consolidate our case with the DOJ’s. We would then litigate the consolidated case cooperatively, much as we did in the Microsoft case.”

Insurance firm Chubb Life launches health monitoring app #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Insurance firm Chubb Life launches health monitoring app

Oct 17. 2020

By The Nation

Chubb Life’s new Chubb LifeBalance app helps people view their health through a new lens. Available in Thailand, Hong Kong and Myanmar, the app is designed to help people actively manage physical, emotional and environmental factors during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

It allows everyone to set their own personal health goals and provides daily prompts and inspiration to keep you motivated.

Chubb LifeBalance connects with a full range of health devices and other apps, from Fitbit to Strava, Garmin to Apple Health, and also lets you invite and compete virtually with friends and family.

“We believe everyone needs support to protect their health during these extraordinary times. Chubb LifeBalance helps everyone see their health through a new lens, one that focuses on more than just your physical well-being, but also cares about your sleep, diet, mind, and body,” said Angela Hunter, country president at Chubb Life Assurance.

Chubb LifeBalance is available for download from the App Store or Google Play. The first 3,000 users to register and use the application for a month will receive a Bt100 FamilyMart e-coupon.

Visit www.chubblifebaslance.com for details.

IPhone 12 first look: What’s tempting, and what Apple failed to mention #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

IPhone 12 first look: What’s tempting, and what Apple failed to mention

Oct 15. 2020

By Geoffrey A. Fowler
The Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO – Sometimes, it’s what Apple doesn’t say about a new iPhone that’s most revealing.

The headline upgrade in this year’s iPhone 12 – soon to be blasted across endless commercials – is that it supports fast 5G cellular networks. They probably won’t mention that across much of America, these next-generation networks are still slow. Depending on where you live, an iPhone 12 might do diddly for your downloads.

The iPhone 12 launched Tuesday with some of the most notable changes we’ve seen in years from Apple’s flagship product: there’s 5G, a flat-edge design and a “mini” model. But to figure out whether one is worth your money, we have to look beyond the hype.

My takeaway: Most people don’t need an iPhone 12 now, but you might want one in a year or two . . . by which point there could be an iPhone 13 or 14 with 5G. The iPhone 12 is the phone you buy because you’re planning to hold onto it for a while.

Normally after Apple unveils a product, I get the opportunity to spend a little time with it. This launch offered only a first-look-but-don’t-touch, because coronavirus pandemic precautions pushed Apple’s event online. Until professional reviewers get our hands on the new iPhone, we’re left to judge based on what Apple claimed in its prerecorded video and on its slick, computer-generated renderings.

That’s all the more reason to bite into this new iPhone with a healthy dollop of skepticism. Apple doesn’t really compete with Android phones for our business anymore. For most iPhone owners, the choice is when to upgrade, how much money you want to hand to Apple and – particularly this year – what size you want it to be.

Here are your 2020 options, arriving in stores in late October and mid-November:

– iPhone 12, $800, is the successor to the “standard” iPhone of the last few years but priced at $100 more. It’s got a 6.1-inch screen and two cameras on the back.

– iPhone 12 mini, $700, is a new smaller-form iPhone, with a 5.4-inch screen squished inside a smaller body than we’ve seen from Apple in years.

– iPhone 12 Pro, $1,000, is the fancy 6.1-inch model with extra camera tricks.

– iPhone 12 Pro Max, $1,100, is the giant 6.7-inch fancy model with extra camera tricks.

Any of these phones will probably feel like a significant upgrade to anyone using an iPhone 6S, 7 or 8. You can also get a cheaper upgrade by buying last year’s iPhone 11 for $600, or the recent $400 iPhone SE, which resembles an old iPhone 8 but is faster.

While the iPhone 12 offers lots of little improvements, there are four upgrades that are the most tempting – and need some caveats.

– 5G across the line:

What’s promising: 5G networks, which boast faster downloads, less delay and the ability to support a lot more devices, are unquestionably in our future. They’re now supported by the iPhone, the one device that can consistently make waves in tech. Unlike some competitors, Apple is also keeping 5G simple, at least in the United States, where all its phones will support the many different flavors of 5G (so you don’t have to learn terms like “millimeter wave” and “sub-6″). Buying one of these phones this year likely futureproofs you for years.

A 5G iPhone could be very fast. Verizon said on Tuesday its ultra-wideband network clocks peak downloads of 4 gigabits (yes, giga!) per second on the device.

What they didn’t mention: Even the marketing maestros at Apple couldn’t cook up a very convincing reason we need 5G on our phones in 2020. (Its few examples included a new video game and doctors quickly downloading patient brain scans . . . to examine on tiny phone screens?) I don’t doubt that someday 5G will power things we can’t even imagine today. But the reality is that the current “nationwide” 5G networks just aren’t very fast. When I tested Samsung’s 5G phones last month in the San Francisco Bay area, I got download speeds that were only marginally better than on 4G phones – and in some places worse! U.S. carriers have a lot of work to do to live up to what Tim Cook promised in his keynote presentation: that 5G is “super fast.”

One more caveat: Using 5G can drain your battery. Apple claims iPhone 12 battery life is about the same as the iPhone 11. But it has built in a special battery-saving Smart Data Mode that kicks you off 5G networks when it thinks you don’t need it. What happens in a few years when we actually do need it?

– New designs and materials:

What’s promising: Like hemlines, phone designs go in and out of fashion. The iPhone 12 brings back the flat edge of the old iPhone 4, which some people find less slippery.

And speaking of being easier to hold, there is a smaller option: the iPhone 12 mini. It’s smaller than even the iPhone 8, but it has an edge-to-edge screen.

All of this year’s iPhones had a little nip and tuck along the edges. The iPhone 12 is 11% thinner, 15% smaller and 16% lighter than the iPhone 11. That’s how they squeezed an even larger screen in the Pro Max model, measuring 6.7 inches on the diagonal.

The iPhone 12 also uses a new kind of glass that Apple says makes it four times more resistant to cracking when it drops. And, at long last, there’s a blue model.

What they didn’t mention: The iPhone 12 mini still isn’t as small as the beloved original iPhone SE, which Apple said goodbye to this year in favor of a new model that’s the same size as an iPhone 8. Apple also says the mini’s battery lasts 2 hours less than the regular 12.

And Apple didn’t make a change many of us really have been asking for: The return of TouchID. Apple’s FaceID system, introduced in the iPhone X, has never worked very well when you wear sunglasses. But the coronavirus pandemic caused an epidemic of unlock failures by people wearing masks. Come on Apple – you were able to put a fingerprint reader on the button in the new iPad Air, so why not in the iPhone?

– Night camera improvements:

What’s promising: A lot of fun happens in the dark. Now you can take better selfies at night with the addition of Apple’s Night Mode, introduced with the iPhone 11, to the front-facing camera. The impressive lowlight mode can take pictures in situations typically too dark for photography. It also has been added to the ultrawide angle camera on the back of the phone.

On the pricier 12 Pro models that have a telephoto lens on the back, Apple added a lidar sensor – it looks less like a fourth eye and more like a beauty mark. Lidar is the same depth-measurement tech used in self-driving cars. No, the iPhone 12 Pro can’t hit the road, but it can use this data to improve focus, particularly in the dark, among other tricks. As a photo hobbyist, this excites me.

What they didn’t mention: Apple didn’t do much to improve my top camera request: zooming. Samsung and other phone makers are embedding telescoping lenses in phones that do up to 10 times optical zoom and 100 times digital zoom. The iPhone 12 Pro Max offers just 2.5 optical zoom and 12 times digital zoom.

– Environmental benefits:

What’s promising: The iPhone 12 no longer comes with headphones or a charging brick. Wait, why is that a good thing? Apple says it’s good for the environment, because there are already over 700 million corded white EarPods in the world, and 2 billion Apple power adapters. It’s true: I could raise a family of hamsters in my big tangle of old headphones. By dropping them from the package, Apple could also make its boxes smaller, part of a wider commitment to have a net-zero climate impact across its entire business by 2040.

What they didn’t mention: If you still need headphones or a charging brick, the Apple-made models will cost you a total of $38. (Perhaps the company can interest you in some $160 AirPods instead?) And Apple didn’t lower the prices of its iPhones to compensate for giving us less. The iPhone mini starts at $700, the same price as last year’s regular-sized iPhone 11. It costs a hundred bucks more for the regular size this year.

And while environmental watchdogs report Apple generally has a better track record than others in the tech industry, it could still do more to help its products last longer. A recent lawsuit in Canada revealed that more than 100,000 used devices Apple had sent for shredding were still able to be used.

The No. 1 thing an iPhone owner can do to help the environment is not buy a new iPhone. Or buy a used or refurbished one.

Seven nations join the U.S. in signing the Artemis Accords, creating a legal framework for behavior in space #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Seven nations join the U.S. in signing the Artemis Accords, creating a legal framework for behavior in space

Oct 14. 2020

By The Washington Post · Christian Davenport · NATIONAL, SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT

NASA announced Tuesday that seven nations have joined the United States in signing the Artemis Accords, a series of bilateral agreements that would establish rules for the peaceful use of outer space and govern behavior on the surface of the moon.

The rules would allow private companies to extract lunar resources, create safety zones to prevent conflict and ensure that countries act transparently about their plans in space and share their scientific discoveries.

In an interview ahead of the announcement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the accords are “intended to create norms of behavior that all countries can agree to so that we can keep peace and prosperity moving forward in space and avoid any kind of confusion or ambiguity that can result in conflict.”

He said the accords, first announced in May, would build on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the use of nuclear weapons in space and prohibits nations from laying sovereign claim to the moon or other celestial bodies.

“There is nothing in the Artemis Accords that isn’t enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty,” Bridenstine said. “It’s a forcing function to get nations to comply with the Outer Space Treaty.”

The seven nations that signed are the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. It’s a somewhat eclectic mix, with countries like Japan, that have long been partners on the International Space Station, joining others, such as Australia and the UAE, that have relatively new but up and coming space programs. Bridenstine said the event Tuesday was only the beginning and that other nations would soon be joining. Ultimately, he said, the U.S. would create “the biggest, most diverse coalition of nations ever in the exploration of the moon and beyond.”

Signing the accords would also be a requirement for any nation wishing to partner with the U.S. in its Artemis program to return astronauts to the surface of the moon. But not all nations have reacted favorably to the agreements, or the lunar plan.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, previously compared the accords to an invasion that would lead to another “Iraq or Afghanistan.” On Monday, during the International Astronautical Congress, a global space conference, he said Russia was not likely to participate in NASA’s moon mission, which he said was “too U.S.-centric.”

He said NASA’s approach to lunar exploration, which would use a station in orbit around the moon called the Gateway, differs from the cooperation between nations on the International Space Station.

“The most important thing here would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation that, which were used in order to fly ISS,” he said, speaking through a translator. “If we could get back to considering making these principles as the foundation of the program then Roscomos would also consider its participation.”

Bridenstine said “the Gateway uses the exact same international agreement, the IGA, that the International Space Station uses.” He added that NASA has “shared with Roscosmos what we would like to do with the Gateway in terms of collaborating with them and seeing what they’re interested is, and we just haven’t heard back.”

By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.

“Precedent is important,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the office of international and interagency relations. “By embracing our values, along with our partners, we’re creating a track record, a norm of behavior that will influence the entire world to proceed with the transparent, peaceful and safe exploration of space.”

Signatories would agree, for example, to help provide emergency assistance in the case of an injured astronaut. They would also agree to protect historic sites, such as the Apollo 11 landing area. They would also agree to be transparent about their plans for space and share scientific data.

The accords would allow countries or companies to create “safety zones” so they could work to extract resources. NASA and China are both interested in going to the South Pole of the moon, where there is water in the form of ice in the shadows of craters.

Being able to operate there safely, without interference, will be critical if multiple nations are vying for the same resource in the same place, he said.

“The most valuable resource that I think any nation is going to be interested in is the water ice at the South Pole,” he said. “So if we get to a position where there is a competition for that resource that’s an area that we’re going to have to deal with.”

But he also said there was value in being open so that nations could avoid any confusion and potential conflict.

“We need transparency so that people know where you’re going, and what yours doing and how you intend to operate. And that includes, for example, a rover,” he said. “How far is that rover going to go? What is the space within which that rover is going to operate? How do we make sure that when somebody else goes to a nearby region, they’re not interfering with the rover.”