Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

Man refused to disband party that violated COVID order, gets year in jail

September 29th, 2020
Picture of a jail cell in which a man's handcuffed hands are sticking out through the bars.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Caspar Benson)

A Maryland judge sentenced a man to one year in jail after finding him guilty of throwing two large parties in violation of a state pandemic order that banned large gatherings. Police were called to the man's home twice in one week, and he refused to disband the party on the second occasion, authorities said.

Shawn Marshall Myers, 42, was sentenced on Friday at the District Court of Maryland, said an announcement by the state's attorney for Charles County. Myers' legal troubles began on March 22 when "multiple officers responded to Myers' residence... for the report of a large party" violating Governor Larry Hogan's order in which "large gatherings were strictly prohibited," the state's attorney office said.

Myers allegedly hosted about 50 people at the party. "Upon arrival, officers told Myers that his party violated the current mandate. Myers was argumentative with officers but eventually agreed to disband his party," the state's attorney office said.

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Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, Policy | Comments (0)

Verizon, AT&T to pay $127M for allegedly overcharging government agencies

September 28th, 2020
A close-up shot of $100 bills.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Viktoryia Vinnikava | EyeEm)

Verizon and AT&T have agreed to pay a combined $127 million to settle lawsuits alleging that they overcharged California and Nevada government entities for wireless service. The lawsuit was filed in 2012 and resulted in a settlement approved on Thursday last week by Sacramento County Superior Court, the plaintiffs' law firm, Constantine Cannon, announced.

"Verizon will pay $76 million and AT&T $51 million to settle claims that, for more than a decade, they knowingly ignored cost-saving requirements included in multibillion-dollar contracts offering wireless services to state and local government users in California, Nevada, and other states," the announcement said. "Sprint and T-Mobile previously reached settlements totaling $11.7 million. Combined, the four major telecom providers will pay $138.7 million to settle allegations in the lawsuits." Those numbers do not include what the carriers agreed to pay in attorneys' fees, which is $23.45 million from Verizon and $13 million from AT&T.

The contracts required that carriers bill government entities "at the 'lowest cost available' and that the carrier[s] identify 'optimized' rate plans that best suited actual usage patterns that drive cost," the law firm also said. The lawsuits alleged that the carriers' contract violations "cheated California and Nevada government entities out of hundreds of millions in savings," the law firm said.

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Posted in AT&T, Policy, settlement, verizon | Comments (0)

Trump likely overstepped authority with TikTok ban, judge rules

September 28th, 2020
TikTok logo next to inverted US flag.

Enlarge / TikTok's US fate is up in the air, but at least you can still download and patch it. (credit: SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

President Donald Trump's attempt to ban TikTok from operating inside the United States probably exceeds the authority the president has to do such things, a federal judge has ruled.

TikTok narrowly avoided being removed from app stores last night when Judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for DC issued an injunction late yesterday requiring the government to pause on its ban. TikTok got its reprieve, but the terms of the order (PDF) were sealed until midday today.

To meet the standard for an injunction, Nichols explained, TikTok basically needed to prove four things to his satisfaction. The first factor, however, is the most important: TikTok needed to prove its case is "likely to succeed on the merits." In plain English, that means: is it going to win its lawsuit against the administration? And the answer, Nichols determined, is probably yes, because the actions the administration took "likely exceed the lawful bounds" of the law under which those actions were taken.

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Posted in bans, bytedance, lawsuits, Policy, prohibitions, tiktok, Trump, White House | Comments (0)

IRS may put cryptocurrency question at the top of 1040 to catch cheaters

September 28th, 2020
IRS may put cryptocurrency question at the top of 1040 to catch cheaters

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News)

The Internal Revenue Service is considering adding a question to Form 1040—America's primary income tax form—asking tax filers if they dealt in virtual currency in 2020. It would be the agency's latest attempt to crack down on underreporting of cryptocurrency profits.

If an American buys bitcoin, ether, or another cryptocurrency and then sells it later at a profit, she or he will typically owe capital gains tax on the difference. But blockchains do not have the tax reporting infrastructure that has become standard for conventional financial institutions. So the IRS doesn't have an easy way to figure out who has received a cryptocurrency windfall. In the early years of the bitcoin boom, many taxpayers failed to report large bitcoin-related profits.

In recent years, the IRS has increased pressure on cryptocurrency traders to comply with tax laws. A 2014 bulletin laid out the basic rules for paying taxes on virtual currency price gains. In 2016, the IRS sought transaction data about thousands of users of Coinbase, a popular US-based cryptocurrency exchange. Coinbase complied with the request in 2018 after some legal wrangling.

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Posted in bitcoin, IRS, Policy, taxes | Comments (0)

Nikola founder bought truck designs from third party

September 27th, 2020
A Nikola Badger pickup truck.

Enlarge / A Nikola Badger pickup truck. (credit: Nikola Motors)

The original design for Nikola’s flagship truck was purchased by founder Trevor Milton from a designer in Croatia, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, despite company claims in a 2018 lawsuit that the vehicle was initially designed by Mr. Milton “in his basement..

The truck, the Nikola One, is at the centre of a $2 billion lawsuit with Tesla, in which Nikola alleges its rival infringed on its patents. Nikola claims in that lawsuit that Mr. Milton began designing the model in 2013, with other company staff later working on it.

In a rebuttal to the lawsuit filed last week, Tesla alleged that Nikola could not protect the designs because they did not originate from the company itself, but from Adriano Mudri, a designer based in Croatia.

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Posted in BEV, cars, electric cars, electric trucks, Nikola Truck, Policy | Comments (0)

Judge will rule by midnight tonight if TikTok can stay in app stores

September 27th, 2020
Judge will rule by midnight tonight if TikTok can stay in app stores

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

TikTok will be gone from app stores tomorrow morning unless a federal judge acts to block the Trump administration's ban on the app before midnight tonight.

Judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for DC said today that he will determine whether to grant or reject TikTok's request for an injunction on the ban before the deadline hits at the stroke of 12.

In a hearing on Thursday, Nichols gave the administration until Friday afternoon either to delay or defend the ban. The administration chose to file a response defending the ban but did so under seal, so the filings are not available to the public.

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Posted in bans, bytedance, china, national security, Policy, tiktok, Trump, White House | Comments (0)

FBI offers $10,000 reward for GirlsDoPorn mastermind Michael Pratt

September 25th, 2020
FBI offers $10,000 reward for GirlsDoPorn mastermind Michael Pratt

Enlarge (credit: FBI)

The FBI is intensifying its worldwide search for Michael James Pratt, the New Zealand-born pornographer who created the controversial GirlsDoPorn website while living in the San Diego area. This week the FBI announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Nearly two dozen women sued Pratt and his associates for using fraud and coercion to get them to appear in pornographic videos. The women won a $13 million judgment in January, but by the time the ruling was announced, Pratt had apparently fled the country.

Meanwhile, the federal government charged Pratt with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion. Prosecutors later added child pornography charges because at least one of his victims was under 18.

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Posted in FBI, GirlsDoPorn, Michael Pratt, Policy, Pornography | Comments (0)

Alphabet, shareholders settle in lawsuits over sexual harassment at Google

September 25th, 2020
Google's corporate headquarters.

Enlarge / Google's corporate headquarters. (credit: Alex Tai | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

Alphabet, Google's parent company, said today it has settled a set of shareholder lawsuits related to the company's handling of sexual harassment claims. Alphabet will commit $310 million to corporate diversity programs over the next decade, and the company agreed to allow its board to take on a greater oversight role in misconduct cases.

As part of the new agreement, Alphabet will expand on its current policy of "prohibiting severance for anyone terminated for any form of misconduct," to include anyone who is currently under investigation for "sexual misconduct or retaliation," Google VP of People Operations Eileen Naughton said in a company blog post.

The settlement is the outcome of a consolidated set of lawsuits investor groups filed against Alphabet in California in 2018, alleging that the company breached its fiduciary duty to shareholders when it retained, and handsomely paid off, male executives credibly accused of sexual harassment. (Other shareholder suits, in federal court and in Delaware, are still in progress, according to the New York Times.)

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Posted in Alphabet, Biz & IT, google, investors, lawsuits, Policy, Settlements, sexual harassment, shareholders | Comments (0)

Apple backs down on taking 30% cut of paid online events on Facebook

September 25th, 2020
Apple backs down on taking 30% cut of paid online events on Facebook

Enlarge (credit: Facebook)

Facebook has temporarily shamed Apple out of taking a 30 percent cut of paid online events organized by small businesses and hosted on Facebook—things like cooking classes, workout sessions, and happy hours. Demand for these kinds of online events has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apple says that it has a longstanding policy that digital products must be purchased using Apple's in-app payments system—and hence pay Apple's 30 percent tax. In contrast, companies selling physical goods and services are not only allowed but required to use other payment methods (options here include Apple Pay, which doesn't take such a big cut).

For example, an in-person cooking class is not a digital product, so a business selling cooking class tickets via an iPhone app wouldn't have to give Apple a 30 percent cut. But if the same business offers a virtual cooking class, Apple considers that to be a digital product and demands a 30 percent cut—at least if the customer pays for the class using an iOS device.

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Posted in Airbnb, apple, Apple Tax, Facebook, Policy, Tech | Comments (0)

Microsoft boots apps used by China-sponsored hackers out of Azure

September 25th, 2020
A motherboard has been photoshopped to include a Chinese flag.

Enlarge / Computer chip with Chinese flag, 3d conceptual illustration. (credit: Steve McDowell / Agefotostock)

Fortune 500 companies aren’t the only ones flocking to cloud services like Microsoft Azure. Increasingly, hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government are also hosting their tools in the cloud, and that’s keeping people in Redmond busy.

Earlier this year, members of the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center suspended 18 Azure Active Directory applications after determining they were part of a sprawling command-and-control network. Besides the cloud-hosted applications, the members of the hacking group Microsoft calls Gadolinium also stored ill-gotten data in a Microsoft OneDrive account and used the account to execute various parts of the campaign.

Microsoft, Amazon, and other cloud providers have long touted the speed, flexibility, and scale that comes from renting computing resources as needed rather than using dedicated servers in-house. Hackers seem to be realizing the same benefits. The shift to the cloud can be especially easy thanks to free trial services and one-time payment accounts, which allow hackers to quickly get up and running without having to have an established relationship or even a valid payment card on file.

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Posted in azure, Biz & IT, china, gadolinium, hackers, microsoft, Policy | Comments (0)