Friday, October 23, 2020

DOJ sues Google under antitrust law

The Justice Department has sued Google for allegedly breaking antitrust laws as it undercut competitors to maintain its status as gatekeeper for internet search and advertising. The department says the Alphabet-owned company, which controls at least 80% of search, pays mobile-phone manufacturers, carriers and browsers, like Apple Inc.’s Safari, to maintain Google as their preset, default search engine. The suit is the biggest U.S. challenge to a tech company over its dominance in two decades. (The Wall Street Journal)


Beekeeper Dumps Nest With 1,500 Asian Hornets Outside Town Hall in France

A beekeeper left a nest containing 1,500 Asian hornets outside a town hall in France in protest at what he said was a lack of help from the local authority in tackling the invasive species. The man said he delivered the nest of hornets to a municipal building in Mauron, in the Brittany region of northwest France, to “raise awareness” about Asian hornets. In a statement the mayor of Mauron said: “A nest of Asian hornets was deposited Monday, October 12, 2020, in the morning, in front of the entrance door of the town hall. I have nothing against the beekeeper, who also works as a destroyer of hornet nests. But he was in the wrong, because it endangered our fellow citizens.” The local authority said it had a scheme to help residents to remove or destroy hornet nests—offering to reimburse those who had the work done with €30 ($35). The insect is the largest member of the wasp family and conservationists have warned that the invasive species’ existence in Europe could have a devastating impact on local honeybee populations. They were first introduced to Europe in 2004, when they are believed to have entered France via cargo. Since then, there have been numerous sightings of Asian hornets across western Europe. They are different from the Asian giant hornet, also known as the “murder hornet,” which has been sighted in North America but is not known to be present in Europe. Asian hornets are identifiable by their larger heads in relation to their body size, and their very dark colorings. (Newsweek)


Purdue Pharma reached a settlement with the Justice Department to plead guilty to three felonies and incur a $8.34 Billion Dollar fine

Purdue Pharma makes painkillers such as OxyContin, the marketing of which contributed to the country’s opioid crisis, according to the Department of Justice. Purdue Pharma went bankrupt in 2019 and acknowledged it paid doctors exorbitant prices to prescribe more opioids. Nearly 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, and almost 400,000 have died from overdoses within the past 20 years. The company doesn’t have $8 Billion Dollars in cash and will pay the federal government $225 Million Dollars. That money will be dispersed to opioid treatment and abatement programs. Purdue Pharma will be dissolved and its assets will be used to create a new public benefit company. Its profits will go towards paying off the remaining fines, which will be given to initiatives focusing on the opioid crisis. The public benefit company will continue to make painkillers. It will also make overdose rescue drugs and medically assisted treatment medication at huge discounts to combat the crisis. The Sackler family, who owns Purdue Pharma, agreed to pay an additional $225 Million Dollar fine and could still face additional federal charges. (The Wall Street Journal)


Chinese billionaires have seen their wealth grow by a record $1.5 Trillion Dollars this past year

The total wealth of Chinese billionaires has now hit $4 Trillion Dollars. China gained 257 new billionaires, bringing the total in the country to 857. It averaged five new billionaires a week over the past year. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma remains the richest man in China and saw his net worth increase by 45% to $59 Billion Dollars. Tencent CEO Pony Ma’s net worth increased by 50% to $57.4 Billion Dollars. American billionaires have seen their wealth increase by $931 Billion Dollars – from $2.95 Trillion Dollars to $3.88 Trillion Dollars during the pandemic. Jeff Bezos remains the richest man in the world and has experienced an 80% increase in his net worth. Quicken Loans’s Dan Gilbert has seen his wealth surge by 656% while Tesla CEO Elon Musk has seen a 277% increase. (CNBC)


Disney slams California reopening rules

The Walt Disney Company is speaking out against California’s reopening plan, saying that the stringent rules of the state’s so-called “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” negatively impact efforts to reopen theme parks. California’s plan is built on a four-tier system that evaluates the ability of individual counties to reopen depending on virus cases. Disney, which has seen its California parks shuttered for seven months now, says it has “responsibly reopen[ed]” in Asia, Europe and Florida. The company recently announced that it would lay off about 28,000 employees across its national theme parks division. (The Wall Street Journal)


Boomers’ savings won’t last: Study

Baby boomers are only saving enough retirement money to last them seven years. According to a new survey, Boomers have about $920,000 saved for retirement on average, but they expect to spend about $135,000 a year to maintain their “best life.” Of the 2,000 polled, the average age they hope to retire is 66. And most are more concerned about market volatility (56%) than the ongoing pandemic (18%). Another notable finding? About 65% said they would rather spend their money in retirement than leave money to their kids. (Charles Schwab)


Streaming wars loses a competitor

Streaming service Quibi is shutting down. In a statement to employees and investors, founders said, “We are winding down the business and looking to sell its content and technology assets.” The service, which featured 5- to 10-minute video narratives meant to be consumed on a smartphone, had attracted $1.7 billion in funding in the run-up to its launch less than a year ago. Its employees will be laid off and paid a severance. (Quibi)


Cities where worker confidence booms

Confidence is popping across 10 U.S. cities, led by Colorado Springs, Colorado; Provo, Utah; Tampa, Florida; Greenville, South Carolina; and Providence, Rhode Island. Most of the leading cities tend to be in the Sunbelt, benefiting from steady population growth and corporate relocations. In a survey that looks at workers’ views of their job security, finances and career outlooks (on a scale of -100 to +100) across 62 metro areas. Confidence among the top 10 cities is +37 or better, topping the national average of +31. The cities that are trailing? Those include Tuscon, Arizona; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Milwaukee and Las Vegas. (LinkedIn)



Sheriff: ‘Cannibals’ lured victim to cabin in Oklahoma woods, performed illegal castration

Two men were accused in a criminal charge of performing an illegal gender reassignment surgery on a volunteer at their cabin in the woods and then keeping the body parts in a freezer, possibly to eat later. Both men, a 53-year-old and a 42-year-old, were arrested October 15th after going to the hospital in McAlester, Oklahoma to try to visit the victim, the Le Flore County Sheriff said. The 28-year-old victim had flown from Virginia to Dallas and then was driven to the cabin in southeast Oklahoma for the surgery, a sheriff’s deputy reported in a court affidavit. The victim had made contact with the two men through a website while searching online about castrations and related terms. The website requires registration to access. In a registration box is a welcome note “from theEunuchMaker and the EM Crew.” The victim reported one of the men claimed to have 15 years of experience and that he “videos the procedures for personal use,” according to the affidavit. The victim also reported that the surgery wouldn’t cost him anything. The victim told investigators that the removal was performed on October 12th on a covered makeshift table at the residence. The victim said he was awake for the two-hour surgery after being injected “in the needed areas.”  The victim stated that after the surgery was over, one of the two men was going to consume the parts and “laughed and said that he was a cannibal,” according to the affidavit. The victim was taken to the hospital the next day by the two men because he had a lot of bleeding. He said they told him that if he passed out or died that he would dump him in the woods prior to instructing him to say “he done it to himself” once they arrived at the hospital. Sheriff investigators became involved after the hospital reported the “surgery.” In a search of the cabin, investigators found a plastic bag “with what appeared to be testicles” in a deep freeze in a bedroom. The two men were charged in Le Flore County District Court where they face felony counts of conspiracy to commit unlicensed surgery, performing unlicensed surgery, maiming and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. They also face a misdemeanor count of failure to bury the removed parts. They also face one felony and two misdemeanor drug-related counts based on the search of their residence. Bail for each is set at $295,000. (The Oklahoman)


Bank teller sentenced to 3 years in prison for withdrawing money from customers’ bank accounts

A Northern Kentucky woman was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday for stealing money from customers’ bank accounts. According to a release from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, the 58-year-old woman of Brooksville, Kentucky, was a bank teller at the First National Bank of Brooksville. Officials said between 2013 and 2019, she repeatedly used customers’ names and account numbers to make debit cash withdrawals from their accounts. The plea agreement stated that she would hide the cash in her teller drawer and would later deposit the money in her or her mother’s bank accounts. The woman admitted to stealing a total of $79,086 from customers. She also confessed to choosing to steal from customers who were elderly, as they may not have regularly monitored their bank accounts. Federal law states that she must serve 85% of her 3-year sentence. She will then be placed under supervised probation for five years, the release said. (WLWT)


New Jersey is the ‘most hated’ state in America, analysis allegedly determines

In news that may or may not come as a shock to the current residents of New Jersey, a recent analysis of Americans’ least-favored states ranked the Garden State as the most hated in the nation. The analysis looked at a number of factors to determine the rankings, including U.S. Census Bureau statistics on population increases or decreases within each of the 50 states, conducted in 2018. The analysts then looked at the results of a 2014 Gallup Poll that asked each state’s residents whether they believed theirs was the best place to live, or at least “one of the best.” 

The top ten most-hated states, as determined by Best Life, ranked as follows:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Texas
  3. California
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Florida
  6. Michigan
  7. Kentucky
  8. Indiana
  9. Alabama
  10. Kansas

(Best Life)


Scientists Restore Vision in Blind Mice Using Gene Therapy – Next, Human Testing

A newly developed light-sensing protein called the MCO1 opsin restores vision in blind mice when attached to retina bipolar cells using gene therapy. Nanoscope’s findings show that totally blind mice, meaning they have no light perception, regain significant retinal function and vision after treatment. The treated mice were significantly faster in standardized visual tests, such as navigating mazes and detecting changes in motion. Opsins are proteins that signal other cells as part of a cascade of signals essential to visual perception. In a normal eye, opsins are expressed by the rod and cone photoreceptors in the retina. When activated by light, the photoreceptors pulse and send a signal through other retinal neurons, the optic nerve, and on to neurons in the brain. A variety of common eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, damage the photoreceptors, impairing vision. But while the photoreceptors may no longer fully function, other retinal neurons, including a class of cells called bipolar cells, remain intact. The investigators identified a way for bipolar cells to take on some of the work of damaged photoreceptors. The researchers found no concerning safety issues in treated mice. Examination of blood and tissues found no signs of inflammation due to treatment and the therapy had no off-target effect–only bipolar cells expressed the MCO1 opsin. Under a best-case scenario, the therapy could help patients achieve 20/60 vision, according to the researchers; however, no one knows how the restored vision will compare to normal vision. (Scitech Daily)


United States government concludes Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democrats

The Director of National Intelligence has issued a major election security alert announcing that the FBI has concluded a recent spate of threatening emails sent to Democratic voters, purportedly from the Proud Boys far right group, actually originated from Iran. Some registered Democratic voters in Florida as well as Alaska and Pennsylvania began to receive threatening emails earlier this week. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” warned the emails, that claimed to be from the anti-Semitic Proud Boys group. The FBI’s conclusion is that these emails were spoofed and exploited an opening in their email platform to allow hackers from Iran to make it look like they came from the far right extremists group.  (Washington Post)


Friday Creeps In Like A Lion With:

  • Boston Cream Pie Day
  • IPod Day
  • Mole Day
  • Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day
  • TechDay
  • TV Talk Show Host Day (Always on Johnny Carson’s birthday)




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