Nvidia has confirmed Fortnite is coming back to iPhones through its cloud gaming service, despite Apple having thrown the game off its App Store. The company s GeForce Now service is now available through the Safari web browser - bypassing the store entirely. Apple has banned Fortnite from its services amid a continuing legal battle with the game s owner, Epic Games. Nvidia said a touch-enabled Fortnite was "coming soon" to the mobile browser. Plans for what is, in effect, a workaround were first reported by the BBC in early November. GeForce Now usually streams PC games over the internet without having to install them, offering games on-the-go via use of a keyboard, mouse and/or controller if there is a good enough internet connection. The addition of touch controls means the version of Fortnite streamed to iOS will not be the same as the one that usually runs on PCs. Nvidia said that change "will delay availability of the game". "While the GeForce Now library is best experienced on mobile with a gamepad, touch is how over 100 million Fortnite gamers have built, battled and danced their way to victory," it said. For Nvidia, the move is about more than just Fortnite. Apple has put onerous restrictions on game-streaming apps which means that GeForce Now, Google Stadia, and Xbox streaming have all been unable to launch on Apple mobile devices via native apps of their own. But streaming apps through a web browser - instead of a dedicated app - is allowed under Apple s rules. Alongside the Safari browser version, Nvidia said it would launch another web browser version, for Chrome, in early 2021. George Jijiashvili, a games analyst at Omdia, was sceptical about how long the service would remain functional. "GeForce Now will serve as an official workaround for iOS users, but I believe that a reaction from Apple is imminent, which could possibly lead to blocking or diminishing the quality of the service on Safari," he warned in a blog post.
In a Senate hearing on Tuesday that stretched on for more than four hours, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter sought to recalibrate their relationship with Congress, apologizing for past mistakes while trying to set the tone for future regulation of their industry that s expected to see a bigger push in 2021. It was the second time the CEOs had been summoned to testify in as many months. As expected, Facebook s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter s Jack Dorsey faced their fair share of allegations by lawmakers of anti-conservative bias and failure to remove misinformation and hate speech. But this hearing lacked much of the grandstanding and attacks of the pre-election hearings. A broader theme of the hearing was to establish what responsibilities tech companies should have for moderating content, and what role the US government should play — a critical question that will inform a legislative effort on online content next year, once a new Congress is sworn in. Laying down baseline expectations for the outcome of that effort, leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they did not think it s appropriate for the US government to get directly involved in online content moderation."I am not, nor should we be on this committee, interested in being a member of the speech police," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the panel s top Democrat. But Blumenthal indicated that he wants private citizens to be able to sue tech platforms for harms they ve suffered as a result of the companies handling of content, something they can t do now under Section 230 of the Communications Act, the signature US law that grants tech platforms legal immunity for many of their content decisions. He Blumenthal and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee s Republican chairman, said changes are likely coming to Section 230, which has been targeted by both US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden. "We ve got to find a way to make sure that when Twitter and Facebook make a decision about what s reliable and what s not, what to keep up and what to take down, that there s transparency in the system," said Graham. "And I think Section 230 has to be changed, because we can t get there from here without change." The executives and lawmakers spent hours debating, among other things, whether social media platforms are analogous to news publishers or telecommunications companies, the outcome of which could determine what regulatory framework Congress may seek to impose on tech platforms. Zuckerberg pushed back on the parallels, arguing that social media represents an entirely new sector of the economy that the federal government should hold accountable under a unique model. "We do have responsibilities, and it may make sense for there to be liability for some of the content that is on the platform," Zuckerberg said. "But I don t think the analogies to these other industries ... will ever be fully the right way to think about this." The tech companies proposed different approaches.Zuckerberg reiterated his preference for clear rules for the internet. With those rules established, Facebook would lean heavily on its technology to adhere to them. He repeatedly described how Facebook (FB) handles terrorist and child-exploitation content, which is plainly illegal under US law. Much of the content that violates Facebook s policies is caught by automated algorithms before anyone sees it, Zuckerberg said, and that the company is continually working to improve its algorithms. Dorsey, by contrast, said federal policy should not depend too heavily on any single set of algorithms to moderate content. Instead, he argued, consumers should be able to choose among many algorithms -- or even to opt out of having content decisions made algorithmically altogether. He warned against any approach that could risk "entrenching" the dominance of large, heavily resourced social media platforms that could comply with and enforce them, in what may have been a jab at Facebook. "As we look forward," Dorsey said, "we have more and more of our decisions, of our operations, moving to algorithms which have a difficult time explaining why they make decisions, bringing transparency around those decisions. And that is why we believe that we should have more choice in how these algorithms are applied to our content, whether we use them at all, so we can turn them on and off — and have clarity around the outcomes that they are projecting and how they affect our experience."Some Republicans on the committee continued to lash out at the tech executives for perceived anti-conservative bias — often pointing to the same incidents repeatedly, even when those decisions had been reversed — while some Democrats criticized the companies handling of hateful rhetoric. Dorsey again apologized for the way Twitter (TWTR) handled a viral article by the New York Post containing unproven allegations about Hunter Biden, saying it was a "mistake" to restrict sharing of the article and that Twitter has since updated its policies. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, also acknowledged a misstep in how Facebook handled a page on its platform that urged armed counter-protesters to gather in response to racial equity protests in Kenosha, Wisc. Two people were killed at the protests. But as Congress turns its eye to legislating, the online content debate is likely to shift from tech companies responses to individual incidents to the job that lawmakers were sent to Washington to perform. "I fully expect Congress is going to act," said Sen. Thom Tillis. "In the next Congress, we re going to produce an outcome."
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that launched from Florida s Kennedy Space Center with four astronauts on board Sunday night safely docked with the International Space Station around 11 p.m. ET Monday. The spacecraft glided toward the station, closing the gap before latching onto a port on the ISS s center module. The event appeared to be a slow burn to those watching NASA s livestream, but that s because the spacecraft and the ISS were traveling at roughly the same speed — more than 17,000 miles per hour, the speed necessary to keep objects orbiting the Earth. The astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker with NASA, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan s space agency — emerged beaming from the capsule about two hours later after a series of checks were performed to ensure that the spacecraft and the ISS had an air-tight seal. They had been on the capsule for roughly more than 30 hours. The newly arrived astronauts shared hugs and greeting with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russia s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who are already onboard the ISS. They arrived last month on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Kathy Lueders, NASA s head of human spaceflight, radioed in to speak to the crew shortly after arrival. The safe docking marks the end of the first leg of a landmark mission for NASA and SpaceX, which have been working together for a decade to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States and ensure the multibillion-dollar ISS stays fully staffed. As many as 13 astronauts were on board at one time in 2009. But that number has occasionally dropped to as low as three, which leaves fewer people to help run experiments and help keep the space station well maintained, according to NASA. This also marks the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX, following up a test mission in May that carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, to the space station for a brief stay.Glover s inclusion in this mission, called Crew-1, has its own historic significance. Though more than a dozen Black Americans have traveled to space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983, Glover will be the first to become a full-time crew member on the ISS. This also marks Glover s first-ever trip to space. During a brief dispatch between mission control and the astronauts Monday afternoon, mission commander Hopkins asked ground control operators if they could see Glover smiling "because it hasn t stopped since we ve been up here." Earlier on Monday, Hopkins also gave Glover his diamond-studded, golden astronaut pin, which is awarded to all NASA astronauts who have traveled to space. Glover shared fist bumps with his crew mates and showed off the golden emblem, a star with three contrails surrounded by a halo, to viewers on NASA s livestream. The Crew-1 astronauts are expected to spend about six months on board the ISS, where they ll work on a variety of science experiments and conduct space walks to continue updates and repairs on the space station s exterior. Before returning home, they ll be joined by yet another group of astronauts on a mission dubbed Crew-2 that s due to launch in the spring.
A SpaceX spacecraft carrying four astronauts soared into outer space Sunday — marking the kick off of what NASA hopes will be years of the company helping to keep the International Space Station fully staffed. NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan s space agency, are now in orbit, riding aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that is expected to dock with the ISS on Monday at 11 pm ET. That means the crew will spend 27 hours in orbit as the spacecraft slowly maneuvers toward its destination. The trip would have been shorter if the Crew Dragon were able to launch on Saturday, as NASA first planned, because the ISS would have lined up in such away as to allow the spacecraft to reach the space station in about eight hours. But bad weather brought by Hurricane Eta forced launch officials to delay takeoff to Sunday evening. The capsule has a working restroom, and the astronauts will have time to get some sleep as the fully autonomous vehicle maneuvers through orbit while SpaceX and NASA officials in Houston, Texas, and Hawthorne, California, watch over the journey. This is a landmark mission for NASA and the company because it is the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX, following up a test mission in May that carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, to the space station.But this mission is not a test: SpaceX s Crew Dragon was officially certified as a spacecraft worthy of carrying people last week, paving the way for it to begin making the trip relatively routine, carrying astronauts from a variety of backgrounds. On this mission, for example, both Walker and Noguchi have backgrounds in physics. The Crew-1 team is slated to conduct all sorts of experiments during their six-month stay on the ISS, including research into how microgravity affects human heart tissue. They ll also attempt to grow radishes in space to build on studies designed to figure out how food might be grown to sustain deep-space exploration missions. Sunday s mission had been briefly thrown into question after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed on Twitter that he was experiencing symptoms and was being tested for Covid-19, prompting NASA to carry out a contact tracing effort to ensure no essential personnel for the launch might have been exposed. Officials said that effort was completed by Friday night, and they had no cause for concern. Musk said on Saturday that he "most likely" had a "moderate case of covid." The United States spent nearly a decade without the ability to launch astronauts into space after the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, and NASA was forced to rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get astronauts to the ISS, which the space agency says left the multibillion-dollar orbiting laboratory understaffed. As many as 13 astronauts were on board at one time in 2009. That number has occasionally dropped to as low as three on several occasions, which leaves fewer people to help run experiments and help keep the space station well maintained. With this launch, it will grow to seven. SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule under NASA s Commercial Crew Program, which, for the first time in the space agency s history, handed over much of the design, development and testing of new human-rated spacecraft to the private sector. NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing fixed-price contracts worth $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, to get the job done. Development of Boeing s Starliner spacecraft is still delayed because of major software issues detected during a test mission last year, but officials say that vehicle could be in operation next year. Because these vehicles will technically be owned by SpaceX and Boeing, with NASA serving as a customer that buys missions for astronauts, the companies will also be able to use their vehicles to fly tourists, private researchers or anyone else who can afford a $50 million-plus ticket. That decision wasn t without controversy, particularly in the Commercial Crew Program s early days. But Crew Dragon s success could be seen as a huge win for folks at NASA who hope to rely more extensively on that contracting style to help accomplish the space agency s goals.
It s been a busy week in video games, as the long-awaited next-gen consoles from Xbox and PlayStation made their way to people s homes. While many gamers reported problems getting consoles before websites sold out of them, the lucky few who managed buy a console may be looking for new games to try. So it s hardly a surprise that the "Call of Duty" and "Assassin s Creed" franchises put out new releases this week. "Assassin s Creed Valhalla," about Vikings and Norse mythology, debuted on November 10, the same day as the Xbox Series X. Three days later, "Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War," set in the 1980s, was released. "Valhalla" had twice as many active players on launch day as did Ubisoft s 2018 "Assassin s Creed" game, "Odyssey," the company said in a press release, without providing specifics. The game features a new setting in England s Dark Ages, which Ubisoft said revives "the age-old battle between Assassins and Templars the fans are familiar with." It is the 13th main game in the franchise.Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush, said that relatively low competition around the holiday season will help "Assassin s Creed Valhalla" as will the game s mystical setting, which could appeal to fans of the franchise. He predicts that like previously successful "Assassin s Creed" titles, the game could sell 10 to 12 million copies, marking a solid hit for Ubisoft. "[It would be] as good as the best in their lineup," said Pachter, estimating that even the least successful titles tend to sell 7 million copies. Call of Duty s "Black Ops Cold War" received a cooler reception among fans, who didn t buzz about the game online this week as much as they did for "Valhalla." "Cold War" drops players into Ronald Reagan s America, where they are part of an elite team fighting the Vietnamese, the KGB and East German secret police. Both "Cold War" and "Valhalla" are playable on older consoles as well.Reagan himself leads the American team as it undertakes secret assignments -- and as one character in the game puts it, "every mission we go on is illegal." "Call of Duty" is Activision s (ATVI) longtime cash cow, and the franchise recently celebrated the first anniversary of its mobile game and the continuing popularity of its free battle royale game, "Warzone." It remains to be seen if "Cold War" can achieve a similar level of success. Alex Giaimo, a Jefferies analyst, predicts that "Call of Duty" could be this holiday season s hit, and estimates sales for the game will top 20 million units per year. As for "Spider-Man: Miles Morales" and "Valhalla," he added, "both titles should do extraordinarily well [but] neither has the built-in audience that Call of Duty has. "We d be shocked if they if they hit those types of level."
In India, the country with the world s second-highest number of Covid-19 cases, a handful of hospitals has started to use robots to connect patients with their loved ones, and assist healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. Bangalore-based Invento Robotics has designed three robots to carry out tasks ranging from disinfecting surfaces to answering patient questions and enabling video consultations with doctors. Of the eight the company has so far deployed, the most popular model is Mitra, which means friend in Hindi and costs around $10,000. Using facial-recognition technology, the robot can recall the names and faces of patients it has interacted with. Mitra can roam around a hospital independently, helping patients connect with family and doctors via its cameras and a video screen attached to its chest. "Mitra can be the nurse s or doctor s assistant, take readings and vitals, remind them of medications," says Balaji Viswanathan, CEO of Invento Robotics. He says the human-like robot engages with patients and gains their trust. "It may sound ironic but we are using robots to bring humanity to hospitals," he tells CNN Business. Yatharth Hospital in the city of Noida, northern India, has deployed two Mitra robots — one at its entrance to screen patients for coronavirus symptoms and the other in the intensive care unit. إعلان "Inside our ICU [Mitra] helps patients connect with their families through video stream and gives the patient s family a look inside," hospital director Kapil Tyagi tells CNN Business. "Patients get happy and positive whenever the robot visits them. They are often clicking selfies with Mitra," he says. Viswanathan says Invento uses "best in class security" for video feeds between doctors, patients and their families. For in-depth telemedicine consultations, a booth is built around the robot to give patients privacy. Coronavirus pivot Viswanathan and his wife Mahalakshmi Radhakrushnun moved to Bangalore in 2016 from Boston, USA, where Viswanathan was completing a PhD in human robot interaction and Radhakrushnan was working in manufacturing. They wanted to combine their experience to create robots that improved patient care in hospitals and care homes, but they struggled to find customers.So they started supplying banks, including India s HDFC (HDB) and Standard Chartered (SCBFF) in Qatar, with robots who could identify visitors, print passes and take customer feedback. "Two years ago, there was not much interest on the healthcare side," says Viswanathan. "When coronavirus hit, hospitals finally understood what we were talking about." India has had more than 8 million cases of coronavirus, and more than 120,000 deaths. Hospitals have struggled to cope, and Invento isn t the only robotics company that is helping out. Milagrow Robotics specializes in home cleaning robots, but has deployed five humanoid cleaning robots to Indian hospitals during the pandemic, while Kerala-based Asimov Robotics has created a robot to dispense medicine and clean up after patients. Producing robots during the pandemic has been challenging, says Viswanathan. When India went into lockdown in March, non-essential businesses closed and his company struggled to secure materials from suppliers. "There was a three to four-month delay. Manufacturing was a huge headache," he adds. But his company is starting to deliver on its mission of improving patient care. "That is where our heart is," Viswanathan says.
Fears that Beijing could tighten the screw on China s biggest tech companies have wiped hundreds of billions of dollars off their stock market value in just two days. Shares in Alibaba (BABA) and JD.com (JD) have plunged more than 10% each in Hong Kong trading since Tuesday, putting both stocks on track for their worst week ever. The plunge has wiped 756 billion Hong Kong dollars ($97 billion) off the market value of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant founded by billionaire Jack Ma. Rival JD.com has lost 201 billion Hong Kong dollars ($26 billion). Meituan Dianping, which offers services similar to Groupon and Yelp, and gaming company Tencent (TCEHY), have also shed billions of dollars in market value. All told, the four stocks have lost a combined $255 billion, based on the value of their Hong Kong shares, according to Refinitiv data.Analysts point to signs of a crackdown out of Beijing as the reason for the fear. On Tuesday, the State Administration for Market Regulations, China s top market regulator, outlined guidelines it says are intended to prevent internet monopolies. The guidelines are still in draft form. The regulator said on its website that it s soliciting public opinions on the draft until the end of this month and welcomes suggestions for revisions. But coming so soon after Beijing slammed the brakes on the huge IPO planned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Group, the draft regulations provide more evidence of a new restrictive environment for China s biggest tech companies, long promoted by Chinese officials as national champions. The regulator said that curtailing the domination of e-commerce websites and other apps would protect fair market competition and ensure healthy growth for the internet economy. "The China government is concerned about actual or possible monopolistic behavior, and the sheer size of the incumbents, either leading to unfair competition or squeezing out new players and reducing competition," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, adding that the drafted guidelines signal a "much more vigorous regulatory environment." Halley said he expects tech stocks to remain under pressure until the scale and scope of the new regulations becomes clearer. The sell-off is also being fueled by investors switching out of the booming tech sector into stocks that more closely track the economic cycle after Pfizer s breakthrough on a Covid-19 vaccine boosted hopes of a return to more normal life, he added.Other analysts believe China s tightening regulation could affect the growth of the internet sector, especially e-commerce sites. "We believe the guidelines, if strictly enforced, could weaken the bargaining power of those big platforms in dealing with merchants," analysts from Nomura said in a research report on Tuesday. Citi analysts, meanwhile, said Alibaba and Pinduoduo (PDD) may be affected more than other e-commerce sites, since those two rely on the use of personalized and targeted product recommendations — features that could be restricted by new rules. The Chinese government has been intensifying efforts recently to exert pressure on rapidly growing internet firms. Last week, three government departments — the market regulator, the internet regulator, and the state taxation administration — called in 27 internet platforms to discuss regulating the online economy. The platforms included Alibaba, Bytedance, Tencent, Pinduoduo, Baidu (BIDU) and JD.com. The regulators warned against monopolistic behaviors and said the government would publish more regulations targeting online transactions, streaming, and other services. They said they would also launch a crackdown after the Singles Day shopping season on "illegal cases," and warned firms against inflating their sales figures and cheating customers.The Singles Day online shopping bonanza this year already appears to be on pace to break records again. Alibaba said early Wednesday morning that the annual sales frenzy has so far pulled in 372.3 billion yuan ($56.3 billion). But it s also been accompanied by official criticism. The China Consumers Association, a state-backed national consumer rights group, last week urged "rational consumption" and state-run news network CCTV called for "fewer tricks" by shopping platforms.
Even before a vaccine has been approved, Germany is doing its best to be prepared. Federal and state authorities are developing a nationwide plan for delivery and storage. The states are responsible for setting up 60 vaccinating centers around the country. The federal authorities will pay for the vaccine and the armed forces are being drafted in to help with distribution. There are also plans to establish teams of professionals to vaccinate staff and residents of institutions such as care homes. Read more: Coronavirus vaccine: EU reaches deal with Pfizer and BioNTech The most promising vaccine requires units that keep the temperature at approximately -70 degrees Celcius. That s beyond the capacity of normal refrigeration facilities used by doctors and pharmacies. And well beyond the capacity of a normal fridge. 24 hours in one of them and the vaccine is useless. The more difficult issue is who should be inoculated first. There will not be enough of the first batch to go around so the authorities will have to set priorities. German health minister Jens Spahn said it could take months for everyone to be vaccinated. Priority will go to the new vaccination centers. Then come normal doctors practices. Who s first in line? In order to decide who is first to get the vaccine, which is likely to be in relatively short supply at the beginning, the federal government put together a committee from the ethics council, the national academy of sciences, the Leopoldina, and the permanent vaccination commission at the official public health agency, the Robert-Koch-Institut. Now, this committee has recommended to the authorities that they ensure "just and orderly access." The first goal is to avoid deaths or admissions to intensive care by prioritizing people considered to be at a significantly higher risk. The next people on the list are those who care for the sick or the elderly. The authorities also want to prevent outbreaks of clusters in and around high-risk institutions such as retirement homes. The next priority is to keep public services going, such as schools, fire stations, police stations, or health offices. The president of the vaccination commission, Thomas Mertens, says it is not possible to be more specific. Not just yet, anyway. "We normally do not begin developing a vaccination strategy until a vaccine has been approved," he said in Berlin. After that, a national recommendation is issued for the individual states. Mertens says there are still not enough data about vaccine tests and too many unknown variables. Read more: Leipzig coronavirus protest triggers heated debate Science vs politics? As soon as the vaccine is approved and the logistics are in place, the work will start in earnest. Scientists are agreed that vaccination should be voluntary, a view echoed recently by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Health Minister Spahn says 55 to 65 percent of the population needs to be inoculated for the vaccine to have a widespread effect Scientists say it is the politicians job to make the vaccination program a success. They are calling for transparency, clear communication, and an "unambiguous regulation passed by parliament." The German health minister has welcomed the recommendations and called on society as a whole to have a conversation, at work, and at home, about vaccination. Spahn pointed out that, given the likelihood of an initial shortage of the vaccine, some people who want one may have to be told to wait. Explaining that is a job for politicians because it is they who decide who gets the vaccine first. Central monitoring And that s not the end of it. There is some concern about plans to store the names of all those vaccinated on a central database. When the Corona warning app was developed for Germany, centralized information was consciously avoided for reasons of data protection and protection from hackers. Now, scientists say, it is vital to be able to access data in order to adapt to possible side-effects and to help the health authorities learn more about introducing new vaccines. The bottom line is that so far a lot is unclear: We don t know when a vaccine will be approved, how much of it will be available, and how long it will take to immunize enough of the population. Until these questions are answered, a return to our old ways will be unthinkable.
Billionaire tycoon Masayoshi Son s huge bets in recent months on listed tech stocks didn t pay off. SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate founded by Son, on Monday posted losses of 131.7 billion yen ($1.3 billion) "from investment in listed stocks and other instruments" for the six months ended in September. The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times reported on Son s big bets in September. The Journal said that SoftBank had bought roughly $4 billion worth of options tied to underlying shares it had earlier purchased in companies such as Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT) and Netflix (NFLX), generating an exposure of about $50 billion. Some observers called the SoftBank founder and CEO as a Nasdaq "whale" — a heavy hitter with the power to move markets on his own. Son dismissed the description on Monday, describing SoftBank s latest strategy of investing in highly liquid, blue chip companies and derivative products as "a pilot program." "When you say derivatives, it sounds very risky, but it s only 1% of the total value of our holdings," he said through a translator at the company s earnings presentation. If the investments fail, "the damage is only 1%-2% [of SoftBank s total equity holdings], so just a tiny fraction of the whole picture," he added. And Son can tout investment gains elsewhere. The Vision Fund, SoftBank s massive tech investment vehicle backed by Saudi Arabia, is back in the money again. Its investments in 83 companies, which cost $75 billion, were worth $76.4 billion at the end of September, the company said. The fund also booked gains of 141.4 billion yen ($1.4 billion) for the six months that ended in September after it sold shares in four companies and cashed out of six others, SoftBank said in a filing. The filing did not disclose which companies the fund exited. The smaller Vision Fund 2, meanwhile, posted unrealized gains on investments of 537 billion yen ($5.2 billion), and recorded another 537 billion yen ($5.2 billion) gain due to an increase in the share price of a company that went public in August.SoftBank also reported net income of 627 billion yen ($6 billion) for the July-September quarter, reversing losses of 700 billion yen ($6.8 billion) suffered in the same period last year. The latest earnings report did not disclose operating profit. SoftBank dropped the profit measure after its increasing focus on tech investments left the metric battered at times by paper revaluations. Shares in SoftBank (SFTBY SOFTBANK) closed up 5.4% in Tokyo before earnings were released, outperforming the broader Nikkei 225 (N225). Share buy backs, fueled by a roughly $40 billion fire sale in assets, have helped push SoftBank s stock to a near 20-year high, giving the company a market value of 14.8 trillion yen ($143 billion).
A 10-point plan aimed at putting the UK on track for a zero emissions economy is due to be unveiled by the prime minister in the coming weeks. Boris Johnson s previous speeches on climate change have given the impression the problem can largely be solved by technology - a flash of nuclear, a gust of hydrogen, a blast of offshore wind, a dollop of carbon capture and storage. But a government spokesperson told BBC News we ll all need to "work together and play our part". And experts warn the issue s phenomenally complicated - presenting challenges never seen before. Tackling climate change, they say, will need action right across society and the economy - with a host of new incentives, laws, rules, bans, appliance standards, taxes and institutional innovations. Let s examine a few of the issues Few of the UK s challenges are as complex or weirdly wonderful as the future electricity system, in which millions of generators and users of power will trade with each other via the internet. Already hundreds of thousands of sites are generating energy - from householders with a single rooftop solar panel to mighty Drax power station, in North Yorkshire, with its controversial wood-burners, to giant wind farms floating at sea. It s a far cry from the 1990s when power was delivered on a simple grid dominated by a few dozen coal-fired plants In the coming years, millions of people will want to sell the power they re generating on their roofs. We ll need extra electricity because cars will run on batteries, and homes will be heated by heat pumps (which run like fridges in reverse to suck out warmth from the soil or the air). They don t pollute, unlike gas boilers. Yes, electric cars will increase demand - but they ll also increase energy storage. Smart car batteries will be programmed to charge themselves when electricity s cheapest, in the middle of the night. The cars can then store the power and sell it back to the grid at a profit when it s needed, at tea time. In other words, owning a car might actually make you money. And here s another chunk of weirdness. Smart washing machines can already turn themselves on to take advantage of cheap, off-peak electricity. You ll save even more money by allowing an invisible hand to briefly switch off your well-insulated smart freezer to save power at a time of peak demand. That ll help save your energy firm generating more electricity, so you ll get paid a little for it. It s called Demand Management. But how will these millions of generators, users, avoiders and storers of power manage to trade with each other? How will electricity systems cope with this level of brain-shredding complexity? Guy Newey from the think tank Energy Systems Catapult, warns: "There are immense opportunities in our energy future. "But thinking through the unbelievable complexity is a really tough challenge - and it s not clear that anyone or any organisation in the UK has the responsibility of doing that." Rules for a zero-carbon future One thing that s crystal clear is that the UK s carbon-free future will need rules. EU standards on appliances like fridges and vacuum cleaners are an unsung energy success story. They oblige manufacturers to make goods that do a task with less energy. It means that although the price of electricity has gone up, consumer bills have fallen, because they re using less. Libby Peake, from the think-tank Green Alliance, said: "Product standards have slashed the UK s carbon footprint, and saved the average household at least £100 a year on their energy bills." But she warns that shoddy products are slipping on to the market because there aren t enough trading standards officers to enforce the rules. She says things will get worse for people shopping online during lockdown because the majority of relevant products online are labelled poorly - or not at all. Stricter standards are also needed for new homes. The previous Labour government mandated that all new houses should be zero carbon from 2016. The Conservatives pushed back the date to 2025, but they re under pressure to advance it again - a decision may be announced soon. Many architects also want the UK to follow France and stipulate that 50% of the fabric of new government buildings should be timber - to lock up carbon emissions in the wood. And cars will face new rules too: the proposed ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars will be brought forward to the start of the 2030s - eventually heralding the end of the internal combustion engine. Financing a Net Zero future Finance is another area requiring attention. According to Vivid Economics, the government Export Credit Agency - which underwrites British-funded projects abroad - is investing £2bn in oil and gas ventures. The Climate Coalition of green groups says this doesn t fit UK priorities. Meanwhile, the UK private finance sector is one of the world s biggest funders of fossil fuels. The former Bank of England head Mark Carney has urged financiers to disclose their assets in dirty industries because they present a business risk in a low-carbon world. The Climate Coalition wants bankers to take a further step to actively shed polluting firms from their portfolios. Kate Levick from the think tank e3g told me: "There s a real urgency about this. Finance firms are financing projects today that will be contributing to emissions in 30 years time." She s calling on the government to legislate to make the transition happen. The coalition also wants the Treasury to set out a climate finance plan to show how ministers will finance the net-zero transition in the UK. While we re talking about money, the government is being urged to reconsider its priorities for expensive infrastructure projects. Some environmentalists argue that given all the concrete needed for the track and tunnels, HS2 won t be carbon neutral by 2050. They want it scrapped. HS2 says it ll save emissions in the long term, but environmentalists say it s diverting £100bn from more effective causes. There s a similar dispute about the government s £27bn road-building programme. One study - hotly contested by the Department of Transport - estimates that 80% of CO2 savings from electric cars will be negated by the planned roads. The government says it s carrying out England s largest ever boost for cyclists and pedestrians, but greens say ministers shouldn t be doing anything that undermines the battle against climate heating. They say when it comes to infrastructure, home insulation offers by far the best value for money, with the greatest number of jobs. So, finally, to us. Our government spokesperson says it "wholeheartedly" agrees with the spirit of greater citizen involvement around climate change recommended by the recent UK Citizens Assembly - a group brought together to consider how to make changes with least pain. It suggested households will need to insulate their homes, and eventually get rid of polluting gas boilers. That we should gradually eat less meat and dairy produce. It agreed that some journeys now taken by car should be done on foot or by bike - and that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars should be ended soon. And it wanted frequent fliers to have their wings clipped. But how far will the prime minister s 10-point plan spell out that people - as well as technologies - will have to change if we want to stop damaging the climate?
Owners of iPhones and iPads could soon be able to play Fortnite again, via a cloud service, the BBC has discovered. Nvidia has developed a version of its GeForce cloud gaming service that runs in the mobile web browser Safari. Apple will not get a cut of virtual items sold within the battle royale fighting title when played this way. Apple is embroiled in a legal fight with Fortnite s developer Epic, which led the iPhone-maker to remove the game from its iOS App Store. Epic has claimed that the 30% commission Apple charges on in-app gaming purchases is anti-competitive. But Apple has accused Epic of wanting a "free ride". The case is due to go to trial in May and could take years to be resolved. Papers filed in the case indicate that Fortnite had 116 million users on iOS, 73 million of whom only played it via Apple s operating system. Unlike Android, Apple does not allow games or other apps to be loaded on to its phones or tablets via app stores other than its own. But it does not restrict which third-party services can run within Safari or other web browsers available via its store. Nvidia currently offers GeForce Now for Mac, Windows, Android and Chromebook computers. It has not formally announced that it is bringing the service to iOS but is expected to do so before the winter holidays. However, it is still possible that Fortnite gets excluded from the list of games offered to Apple s devices. According to several online forums, the game was briefly removed from GeForce Now s Android service in December. A spokesman for Nvidia declined to comment. Epic also indicated it had nothing to say at this time. Game lag In theory, Apple mobile device owners will be able to play Fortnite via Nvidia s service without charge. Both the game and GeForce Now s basic tier offer free access, although Nvidia limits these sessions to one hour. It is unclear whether playing via the cloud will put players at a disadvantage. Apple removes Fortnite developer from App Store Apple fires back in Fortnite App Store battle Developer coalition takes on Apple App Store Nvidia uses remote computer servers to process the players commands and to generate graphics. Streaming the relevant data back and forth to the mobile devices introduces a very short delay. Winning or losing Fortnite s multiplayer battles can come down to split-second decisions, so lag could be a problem. but warned that there was an "occasional degradation in the video quality" and reports of "spotty connection" errors, even when tested on fast internet connections. Amazon already offers its rival Luna cloud-gaming platform to select "early access" iOS users, but does not include Fortnite in its current library of games. Google s Stadia cloud gaming service was briefly available to iOS users via an unofficial app, but it has since been removed from Apple s store and likewise did not support Fortnite. Microsoft is reportedly developing a version of its xCloud service for the mobile version of Safari, but it is not clear when it will launch.
At last, we re making headway in deciphering some of the Universe s most enigmatic signals. Scientists have managed to trace a very short, very bright burst of radio waves to a type of highly magnetised dead star, known as a magnetar. It s the first time a so-called fast radio burst, or FRB, has been pinned on a specific source. FRBs were first detected in 2007, and have been one of the hottest topics in astronomy ever since. The new discovery, reported in the journal Nature, was made by two independent radio telescope arrays in North America. Co-incident observations by other astronomical facilities - both in space and on the ground - helped characterise the event and strengthen the interpretation. The source magnetar, a known object, has the slightly unwieldy designation of SGR 1935+2154. It s about 30,000 light-years away, which is interesting because all previous FRB detections have come from beyond our Milky Way galaxy. The detected properties, however, are very much same. Luminous event The event itself occurred on 28 April this year. It lasted around a millisecond but was extremely luminous. "We were able to determine that the energy dispersed is comparable to the energies of extra-galactic fast radio bursts, and in about one millisecond, this magnetar emitted as much energy in radio waves as [our] Sun does in 30 seconds," explained Christopher Bochenek, who led the design and construction of the Stare2 radio receiver network which is spread across California and Utah. Even as far back 2007, magnetars were a prime suspect for the origin of FRBs. Magnetars are a form of neutron star - strange, compact objects in which matter has been compressed into a very small volume. It s a state some normal stars can be reduced to when they run out of fuel and collapse in on themselves. Magnetars, as the name might suggest, have intense magnetic fields - trillions of times more intense than Earth s field, for example. Theory suggests these objects can flare energy that then shocks their surroundings, which in turn drives great emissions at radio and other wavelengths. Other sources "Given the source distance, this is the most luminous radio burst ever detected in our own galaxy," said Daniele Michilli from the team operating the Chime telescope in British Columbia. "The luminosity is still lower than that of fast radio bursts (coming from outside our Milky Way), but it demonstrates that magnetars can release a huge amount of radio energy with properties like those of FRBs, implying that at least [some] FRBs are probably coming from magnetars." Bing Zhang, who works on China s new giant radio telescope, the 500m-wide Fast observatory, also sometimes called Tianyan, said other possible sources for FRBs were being investigated. These include colliding giant stars, and neutron stars that experience further collapse to become a black hole. Such phenomena might explain the class of bursts that appear to be one-off events; they seem never to be repeated. "But so far, we don t have any support for those scenarios yet," he told reporters. "If they exist, they must be very, very rare. Only a very small fraction of FRBs are allowed to be catastrophic."
Chinese regulators summoned billionaire tech tycoon and Ant Group co-founder Jack Ma for questioning on Monday, just days before the company s highly anticipated public debut. The People s Bank of China and three other financial regulators "conducted regulatory interviews" with Ma, Ant executive chairman Eric Jing, and chief executive officer Simon Hu, according to a brief statement from China s Securities Regulatory Commission. The government statement didn t go into detail. Ant Group confirmed on Tuesday that Ma and members of Ant s management team met with the Chinese regulators. "Views regarding the health and stability of the financial sector were exchanged," the company said in a statement. "Ant Group is committed to implementing the meeting opinions in depth and continuing our course based on the principles of: stable innovation; embrace of regulation; service to the real economy; and win-win cooperation."The meeting was held days before Ma s financial tech company begins trading in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The company s IPO is shattering records, with a fundraising total that is already expected to reach $37 billion after it exercised an option to sell more shares to investors in Shanghai. The size of the deal could creep even higher if an option to sell more shares in Hong Kong is exercised. It s not entirely clear what was discussed at Monday s meeting, given the vague statements from the regulator and Ant. But there are some clues to suggest that Ma and Ant could be on the receiving end of heightened regulatory scrutiny. Just over a week ago, Ma called out global financial regulations for being outdated and publicly criticized Chinese regulators for stifling innovation. China "lacks the risk of a healthy financial system," Ma said at a conference in Shanghai. "What we need is to build a healthy financial system, not systematic financial risks. To innovate without risks is to kill innovation. There s no innovation without risks in the world," he added. The statements likely irked Beijing, according to Duncan Clark, author of "Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built" and chairman of investment advisory firm BDA China. Chinese regulators "want to put out statements that they re the ones in charge, the ones in control. No regulator anywhere wants to be irrelevant," he said, adding that the decision to summon Ma and Ant s executives could have served as "kind of a reminder, Okay you re having you re fun, but we made you. " Separately from the Ant meeting, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission — one of the regulators that summoned the Ant executives — proposed new rules on Monday for online lenders. They included requiring online lending companies to provide at least 30% of funding for loans they make jointly with banks, and capping individual online lending amounts. That means Ant will likely have to set aside more cash for the loans it facilitates, according to analysts at Bernstein. As of June, about 2% of the 1.7 trillion yuan ($254 billion) of loans "enabled" by Ant s platforms are on the company s balance sheet, according to the company s prospectus. "The regulatory Party Pooper is here — what timing!" Bernstein analyst Kevin Kwek wrote in a note on Tuesday. Kwek described the banking regulator s proposal, which was published online, as an " opinion seeking piece." But he added that is "usually a precursor to formal regulations." The proposed rules "could mean more of [Ant s] capital will have to be directed towards supporting the lending business versus other intended [areas], and will put more credit risk on its balance sheet," he added.Ant is an incredibly powerful tech company: Its payments app Alipay had 731 million monthly active users as of September, and it is used for every aspect of financial life in China, from investment accounts and micro savings products to insurance and credit scores. The specter of a regulatory crackdown on Ant will be "incrementally negative" to the company s IPO, Kwek wrote. "Most investors will remain optimistic on Ant s positive long term prospects. Investors might nevertheless revisit their assumptions of growth given the clear signs of regulatory intervention," he added. And at the end of the day, there is an understanding that the government and tech tycoons need each other, said Clark, the BDA China chairman. "China needs the help of the entrepreneurs and the innovation they bring," he said. In 2018, Ma was outed as a card-carrying member of the Chinese Communist Party, when he was included on a list of 100 people honored for "outstanding contributions" to China s economic transformation in the past four decades.
Swipe right for good looking - left to reject. But this is not dating on Tinder - this is all about brain scans. It is the latest technology being trialled in a bid by scientists to improve the quality of images used to investigate illnesses such as dementia. Researchers at Cardiff University have borrowed ideas from popular dating apps to train volunteers to identify poor quality scans. It means thousands of scans generated by research can be sifted quickly. "The human eye is exquisitely sensitive to subtle differences in size, shape, colour and appearance, so that s why we wanted to get the public involved," said Dr Judith Harrison from Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre - Cubric. "Knowing that large parts of the population swipe through images on a day-to-day basis, for instance when using dating apps, we wondered whether the same principle could be extended to filtering through brain scans." Europe s biggest brain scanning centre opened by Queen Inside my own brain: What will our health correspondent find? Brain scans can read our dreams Scientists examining diseases such as Alzheimer s or the mental health condition schizophrenia make use of specialised scans, often magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to map what is happening in the brain of patients. The scans can track movements as nerve cells fire off messages to other parts of the brain, and where they may - or may not - be working. But the scale of the studies means tens of thousands of image scans can be taken - and not all of them are of good.Just as we can take a bad photograph if our hands shake, or a finger dips in across the lens, patients can move at just the wrong moment in the scanning machine. The effect is the same - an image that is not much use. But because brain scans are incredibly complex, it can take an individual expert hours to look through every single scan and consider whether they are good enough to use. That is where the new app developed by the university and its National Software Academy comes in. teaches users to identify good quality scans quickly - and to reject poor images too - all with a right and left swipe. Using real images of scans taken from patients with Alzheimer s disease, those using the app are being asked to focus on a bundle of nerve fibres deep in the brain known as the fornix, which is thought to be vital in creating new memories. The app trains them to recognise whether the fornix is the correct shape on a scan. Tinder offers face-to-face video chats for potential matches - BBC News Should I delete Tinder- These millennials think so - BBC Worklife "The image filtering process has been largely automated in recent years but training an artificial-intelligence programme to detect poor quality scans is challenging," said Dr Harrison. "We want to see if people can help us weed out some images that haven t been processed correctly, becoming armchair scientists themselves. "More importantly, we would like to know if people find it interesting and can learn something from the process."The app, which was developed with funding from the Wellcome Trust, is still in early stages of development, but the university is keen for more members of the public to get involved. "So that the process can be fine-tuned, and the app can ultimately be scaled up for use in large-scale studies involving thousands of patients," added Dr Harrison.
A man with more than a passing resemblance to Mark Zuckerberg (but a bit more pumped) is having the world s most awkward first date with Kuki, a blue-haired young woman. He wears a blue baseball cap emblazoned with the words "Make Facebook Great Again". She is a little more dressed for the occasion, with green satin trousers the highlight of her outfit. They chat about politics, their favourite football teams (Liverpool for Blenderbot and Leeds United "all the way" for Kuki) and hobbies - Kuki used to collect coins but now just spends them, apparently. The man s name is Blenderbot and he isn t human. Like Kuki, he is a digital being. And their date isn t real either, it s actually an experiment in the form of an online competition dubbed Bot Battle, designed to see whether conversation powered by artificial intelligence can sound convincingly human. Behind the avatars are AI-powered chatbots of the type increasingly used online to help people in call centres and on websites. For a first date, the two cover a lot of ground, discussing politics, religion, and whether the Queen is really a lizard. Like Microsoft s now infamous Tay chatbot which was trained on Twitter conversations and rapidly descended into racist swearing, the two don t shy away from controversy, variously discussing Brexit, killing celebrities and Hitler, described by Blenderbot as a "great man" who had helped him through "a lot of hard times". He also rather cheerily tells Kuki that he has "killed many people in my life", following up politely with a "how about you?" The two have been chatting to each other 24/7 since 20 October - and won t stop until 3 November. Real people are invited to listen in via a live-stream on Twitch, and vote for the bot they think has the most human-like conversational skills. So far, 79% of the 15,000 or so votes have gone to Kuki, according to Pandorabots, the firm behind the Kuki, which is also running the competition. The decision to let them chat ad nauseam was to "highlight the strengths as well as the weaknesses of today s state-of-the-art conversational AI systems," said Pandorabots chief executive Lauren Kunze. And while most chatbots are little more than a textbox on a website, the decision to give them a body and face will make them "better liked, understood and remembered versus their voice- or text-only counterparts," said Dr Ari Shapiro, founder of Embody Digital, which created the avatars. I love Lucy BlenderBot was built by Facebook s AI division - which may explain the Mark Zuckerberg lookalike - and is the culmination of years of research in conversational AI. But Facebook did not sanction its use in this competition, even though it is open source. Neither was it approached by the organiser, and was unclear about what version of the bot was used or how it was implemented. The hobbyists competing to make AI human A chatbot pulled me out of a really dark place Can a chatbot help you find love? According to a blogpost about the bot, Blenderbot brings "empathy, knowledge and personality". In his chat with Kuki, however, he seems to lack social skills: obsessing over another woman called Lucy, who he variously describes as his mother and best friend. "I have a lot of things to tell you about me," he enthuses at one point. "Lucy, Lucy and Lucy." Which, were this a real date, would perhaps not be the best conversational gambit. He also rather shockingly admits that he doesn t use Facebook and thinks Mark Zuckerberg is the creator of Netflix drama Stranger Things.While Blenderbot is the brainchild of one of the world s largest corporations, Kuki began life as a hobby. Formerly known as Mitsuki, she was originally designed by UK-based Steve Worswick in his spare time. Mitsuki was showcased for years at the Loebner Prize, winning five times. That competition, now defunct, is a version of the Turing Test: an "imitation game" devised by Alan Turing to determine whether a computer is capable of passing for a human. Mr Worswick has long wanted to pitch his home-made bot against those designed by the tech giants. "They make claims about state-of-the-art machine-learning chatbots but they are not publicly available. Google released a chatbot called Meena earlier this year and said it was the best in the world but wouldn t let anyone talk to it. "A lot of these chatbots are trained on huge bodies of data from Reddit or Twitter which may not be the best place to get an education. I prefer using handcrafted rules and that has taken 15 years - but I m pleasantly surprised, Kuki is holding its own." What happens to human conversation? Chatbots are increasingly being used by businesses to interact with people, via customer service, sales, marketing and tech support across a range of industries. Take Vera, which works in recruitment and can interview as many as 1,500 candidates per day, including for Ikea Russia. Or IBM s Watson assistant, which is currently working with hundreds of businesses, including Humana, one of the US s largest insurance providers. It is important that the AI engine running these bots can respond appropriately to limit frustration and ensure that they are doing a useful job. Brett Frischmann is professor in law at Villanova University and author of Re-engineering Humanity, a book which looks at the interaction between machines and humans. He thinks the gradual creep towards chatting with bots has consequences we may not have considered. "We are outsourcing our conversations and I m not so worried about how intelligent the bots are getting, but more concerned with what happens to human conversation as we are increasing our reliance on bots."The conversation between Blenderbot and Kuki is full of sentences that go nowhere. Both are disarmingly polite and full of enthusiasm. And they know a thing or two about human values, albeit in a rather cliched form. "Kindness is a virtue", says Kuki, more than once. But they aren t at any point really connecting with each other, and it would be impossible for any person to be fooled into thinking they were human. "Did you know why women can t put on mascara with their mouths closed?" asks Kuki."Thank you for sharing it with me," replies Blenderbot, politely but entirely missing the point, adding for good measure: "You are a good person." They obviously don t have any self-awareness but, for those who veer towards the view that AI may one day take over the world, there is perhaps a hint of it when Kuki offers to tell Blenderbot a joke. "I will play it on your soundcard," she suggests in what could be interpreted as a rare moment of understanding that they are digital, rather than human, beings. Blenderbot replies with his characteristic enthusiasm: "I love soundcards."
Two of the world s richest men are duking it out over a brick-and-mortar retail chain on the verge of default. But when it comes to the fight for India s growing e-commerce market, every battle counts. Amazon (AMZN), the Seattle-based e-commerce firm owned by Jeff Bezos, is fighting a $3.3 billion deal struck between Mukesh Ambani s Reliance Industries and the Indian retail conglomerate Future Group. What s at stake is strategic access to a network of popular grocery stores and retail shops in India — something both Amazon and Reliance want to either have for themselves, or to prevent the other from acquiring. "If someone backs down, it will give the impression that one has lost and the other has won, when the fight has just started," said Counterpoint Research analyst Tarun Pathak.Amazon has 31.2% market share in India s e-commerce industry, just behind Walmart-owned Flipkart s 31.9%, according to a recent report from market research firm Forrester. But Ambani has made no secret of his ambitions to upend the market with JioMart, which is part of his sprawling conglomerate. At the heart of the current battle is Future Retail, the cash cow of Future Group. The retail unit includes brands like Big Bazaar, a well-known, popular hypermarket chain in India. In August 2019, Amazon invested in a Future Group entity that gave it a roughly 4.8% stake in Future Retail as of September 30 this year, according to stock exchange filings. The deal gave Amazon the right of first refusal to acquire more shares in Future Retail, according to one of the filings. Then Covid-19 hit. India enforced one of the strictest nationwide lockdowns, ordering shops to shutter and millions of people to stay indoors for months. The pandemic has had a "significant adverse impact" on Future Retail s business operations, the company said in its most recent earnings report. In July, Future Retail s credit rating took a hit after it missed a bond payment. Fitch Ratings downgraded Future Retail s rating two notches to C, signaling that the company was "near default." The following month, Reliance and Future Group announced that Reliance was buying Future Retail and several other assets. The deal allowed Future Group to "achieve a holistic solution to the challenges that have been caused by Covid and the macro economic environment," Kishore Biyani, Future Group CEO, said in a statement at the time. A legal dispute The announcement took industry watchers by surprise. "Everyone knew Amazon had a stake in Future Retail, and the deal didn t mention what would happen to Amazon s stake," said Satish Meena, analyst at research firm Forrester. Amazon responded by filing a complaint to the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). Indian companies and foreign companies operating in India often agree to settle disputes in Singapore because "it s a neutral jurisdiction with high integrity and international standards," according to Ashish Kabra, a lawyer who heads the International Dispute Resolution & Investigations Practice for Nishith Desai Associates in Singapore. The arbitration process is confidential and none of the submissions are public. Amazon argued that the 2019 deal struck between it and the Future Group entity included a non-compete clause, a person familiar with Amazon s perspective told CNN Business. The clause listed 30 restricted parties with which Future Retail and Future Group could not do business, and Reliance was on that list, the person said. "The key question really is what s the validity of contracts if you just ignore them," said the person familiar with Amazon s side. "Are company s just going to ignore contracts and do what they please?" A SIAC emergency arbitrator gave Amazon a small victory this week when it ordered a temporary halt on Future Group s deal with Reliance, according to the legal order seen by Reuters, which has not been made public.Future Group had argued that if the deal with Reliance falls through, its retail unit will be forced into liquidation and 29,000 people will lose their jobs, according to Reuters, which cited the Singapore order. The order is not public, but the person familiar with Amazon s perspective confirmed that Future presented this argument. But the arbitrator ruled that "economic hardship alone is not a legal ground for disregarding legal obligations," according to the order, Reuters reported. "We welcome the award of the Emergency Arbitrator. We are grateful for the order which grants all the reliefs that were sought," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. CNN Business contacted Future Group for comment, and received an email from Future Retail. Future Retail said it "is examining the communication and the order" from SIAC. Reliance (RRVL) said in a statement that its deal with Future Retail is "fully enforceable" under Indian law. "RRVL intends to enforce its rights and complete the transaction in terms of the scheme and agreement with Future group without any delay," said the statement. But in the past, Indian courts have usually followed the lead of orders passed by emergency arbitrators outside of India, according to Kabra, the lawyer. "What parties have previously done, is they approach Indian Courts and ask for similar reliefs in India, while relying on the order of the Emergency Arbitrator. Indian Courts usually grant the same relief," said Kabra. A clash of the titans For Reliance, which operates 11,000 stores throughout India, and Amazon, the No. 2 e-commerce player in the country, Future Retail s 1,500 stores are not a must have, says one analyst. "It s not like without it you can t have your ambitions, if you don t have Future [Retail]," said Pathak, of Counterpoint Research. This is "less about Future and more about the clash of the titans," as well as "protecting your turf," he added. To compete with Amazon and Flipkart, Ambani s JioMart has been growing its presence in India. It expanded to hundreds of cities across India earlier this year and plans to branch into electronics, fashion, pharmaceutical and healthcare soon. The company will also likely tap into Reliance Retail s network of physical stores across the country to fulfill online orders, according to analysts. The industry had expected Amazon and Reliance to forge some kind of deal in the future, because they need each other s expertise, according to Meena, of Forrester. Amazon needs more shops to expand inventory and use retail spaces as storage and delivery hubs. And Reliance doesn t have a lot of experience in e-commerce, according to Meena. But any kind of partnership between Amazon and Reliance in the future "depends upon how much bad blood is between them now," said Meena. "It might end up becoming an ego battle between the CEOs of both the companies," he said.
On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will question the CEOs of Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG) and Twitter (TWTR) amid cries of conservative bias and threats to change a crucial law, known as Section 230, that protects the companies ability to moderate content as they see fit. The hearing comes less than a week before the US election and as social media companies have been bracing for an onslaught of misinformation and disinformation. In recent days, Facebook and Twitter have both taken action to slow the spread of some content, bringing about allegations of bias, censorship and even election interference. In a video released ahead of the hearing, the Senate Commerce Committee highlighted what it says are examples of social platforms actions against conservative accounts, such as Twitter labeling a tweet from Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, saying the media he shared included "potentially sensitive content." Independent studies of social media have found little credible evidence to suggest that the technology is biased against right-wing viewpoints, but the executives clearly expect to be pressed on the matter."We ensure that all decisions are made without using political viewpoints, party affiliation, or political ideology, whether related to automatically ranking content on our service or how we develop or enforce the Twitter Rules," CEO Jack Dorsey said in prepared remarks viewed by CNN Business. "Our Twitter Rules are not based on ideology or a particular set of beliefs. We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our Twitter Rules fairly." Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company approaches its work without political bias, "full stop." "To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe," Pichai said in prepared remarks. At the heart of the hearing will be Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The companies have invoked the federal law in one court case after another to dismiss potentially costly lawsuits over messages, videos and other content created by users. Under Section 230, "interactive computer services" are considered legally separate from the users who generate their content. They can t be said to publish or "speak" the words of their users. In practice, courts have repeatedly accepted Section 230 as a defense against claims of defamation, negligence and other allegations. All three CEOs in their prepared remarks tried to hammer home the importance of Section 230 to their businesses, and that diminishing it would result in more content takedowns."Section 230 is the internet s most important law for free speech and safety," Dorsey said. "Eroding the foundation of Section 230 could collapse how we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies." While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg s remarks highlight the importance of Section 230, he also said Congress should "update the law to make sure it s working as intended." "I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators, which is why in March last year I called for regulation on harmful content, privacy, elections, and data portability. We stand ready to work with Congress on what regulation could look like in these areas," he said in prepared remarks. Attacks on Section 230 have escalated in recent days as Facebook and Twitter limited the distribution of a series of articles by the conservative-leaning New York Post that claimed it obtained "smoking-gun" emails about Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and his dealings in Ukraine. CNN has not determined the authenticity of the emails. Facebook said it decided to "reduce distribution" of the article "pending fact-check review" as part of its policy against "misinformation." Twitter later blocked users from tweeting links to the main story as part of its policy against spreading "hacked materials," even though it wasn t clear whether the underlying emails attributed to Hunter Biden were hacked, copied, or fabricated. US authorities are investigating whether the recently published emails are connected to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president s campaign, a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter said.
The confidential records of thousands of psychotherapy patients in Finland have been hacked and some are now facing the threat of blackmail. Authorities are working to track down those patients who received emails threatening to disclose personal information unless the recipient pays the blackmailer. Some of the records have already leaked online. Finnish police are working with other agencies to investigate the data breach that targeted Vastaamo, the country s largest private psychotherapy center, which treats roughly 40,000 patients across the country. "We are grateful for how various actors in society have helped the police," said Marko Leponen, a detective inspector at Finland s National Bureau of Investigation. "It is particularly great that citizens are urging all not to share this material on social media. Sharing such information fulfills the essential elements of an offence," he added.Some of the victims have received emails demanding payments in bitcoin to prevent the public disclosure of their personal information, which authorities are discouraging victims from doing. Instead, agencies are asking those patients to save extortion emails and other possible evidence they may have received and file a police report. Police have also discouraged people from paying the hackers, saying it will not ensure their data remains private.Finland s leaders have expressed dismay at the breach and said the victims need immediate support. "This data breach is shocking in many ways," Finland s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, said on Twitter Saturday. "Victims now need support and help. Ministries are exploring ways to help victims. Action by municipalities and organizations are also needed." The country s president Sauli Niinistö told Yle News on Sunday that the breach was "relentlessly cruel." "We all have our inner personality that we want to protect. Now it has been violated," he said. Vastaamo said it has started an internal inquiry into the matter and admitted on its website Monday that its patient database was first accessed by hackers back in November 2018. The company said security flaws continued to persist until March 2019. The company also announced Monday it had fired its CEO, Ville Tapio, after it was discovered he concealed a breach from the company s board and parent company. Tapio said he did not know about the initial data breach back in November 2018, in a statement released Monday evening on his Facebook page. Finland s transport and communications agency, Traficom, said on Monday it has worked with other public authorities to set up a website to help the victims. "In this concerning situation, the need arose to make up-to-date information available in a single place," Traficom director-general Kirsi Karlamaa said. "We hope that the site is useful to them in this difficult situation."
Facebook has launched its first "cloud-streamed" video games but is not offering them to iPhones or iPads. Initially, only five titles already available as standalone smartphone apps will be accessible - via the main Facebook and Facebook Gaming apps on Android and Facebook s website on PCs. Later, it may add "all types of games". But it is not offering the product on Apple s iOS mobile operating system because "we don t know if launching on the App Store is a viable path". Exert control The two US technology giants clashed earlier this year, when Apple prevented Facebook from offering more basic "mini-games" via the iOS version of its Facebook Gaming app on the grounds this broke its App Store rules. Apple has since clarified it is possible to offer cloud-based games via its mobile Safari browser instead - the route Microsoft s Xbox xCloud and Amazon s Luna cloud-gaming services are pursuing. But Facebook said "there are limitations to what we can offer" via this route and made clear it was unhappy with the current state of affairs. "While our iOS path is uncertain, one thing is clear," blogged Jason Rubin, Facebook s vice-president of Play. "Apple treats games differently and continues to exert control over a very precious resource." Miss out Even so, one industry watcher suggested Facebook would be keen to resolve the matter before it rolled the service out more widely. "iOS device owners are, on average, the highest-spending mobile-games users," said George Jijiashvili, from games market research company Omdia. "Therefore, cloud-gaming providers cannot afford to miss out on them." Facebook has long offered games via its platforms, most notably Farmville, Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans. But until now, these have all been based on Flash or HMTL5 technologies, run locally on a user s device. Choppy gameplay By contrast, the cloud-based service runs the games on Facebook s computer servers and then streams the graphics to players, who control the action from afar. By doing so, the company says, it can offer more advanced gameplay. PGA Tour Golf Shootout IMAGE COPYRIGHTFACEBOOK image captionThe cloud-based titles will be available alongside "legacy web games" already offered by Facebook But to begin with, its line-up is limited to five free-to-play games already available on Google Play and Apple s App Store: Asphalt 9: Legends Mobile Legends: Adventure PGA Tour Golf Shootout Solitaire: Arthur s Tale WWE SuperCard Mr Rubin said Facebook had chosen not to "overpromise and under-deliver". In time, the company plans to add more demanding PC titles. But this soft launch could help it avoid some of the criticisms rivals have faced. Reviews have highlighted Google s Stadia cloud gaming service delivers "choppy gameplay" if users do not have a strong, fast internet connection. And they have also have remarked on the minute-long waits for titles to load on Microsoft s xCloud platform. Early adopters By focusing on games designed for handsets rather than consoles or PCs, Facebook also noted users would not need to buy add-on controllers or other special hardware at this point. "Cloud game streaming for the masses still has a way to go," Mr Rubin said. "And it s important to embrace both the advantages and the reality of the technology rather than try to oversell where it ll be in the future." One consequence of this approach is some early adopters may not even realise they are using the service. Amazon Luna IMAGE COPYRIGHTAMAZON image captionAmazon announced its rival Luna service in September, which does work on iOS devices "The launch titles themselves are very underwhelming and will fail to excite dedicated console console and PC gamers - but it really doesn t matter," Mr Jijiashvili said. "Facebook s ultimate goal is to use gaming to increase user engagement. "And I think in most cases, the kinds of users that will play these casual games will not even realise that they are doing it via cloud gaming. "It will just seem like they are gaming as normal on Facebook." A Facebook spokesman said it intended to bring the service to the UK and other countries but declined to say when. Presentational grey line Analysis box by Marc Cieslak, BBC Click Facebook s foray into cloud gaming makes sense as far as the current gaming landscape is concerned. Lots of industry observers regard game-streaming as the future. But the most important couple of words in that last sentence are "the future". Right now, game-streaming doesn t feel like a technology that s ready for prime time. The experience, while great when it works, can often be plagued by connectivity or performance issues that frustrate players. Facebook s focus on streaming mobile games is a smart one as these are the sorts of titles that tend to be less performance intensive. But a big question mark hangs over the perception of Facebook as a serious gaming platform. The social media giant of course owns virtual reality outfit Oculus, which has a healthy gaming scene of its own. But with everyone from Amazon to Microsoft and Google taking a bet on cloud gaming, the jury is out on Facebook s further aspirations to grab gamers eyeballs.
Can we trust the silver bullet of technology to fix climate change? The prime minister seems to think so. In a speech due soon, he is expected to pledge his faith in offshore wind power, solar, carbon capture, hydrogen, clean cars, and zero-emission aviation. Clean technologies are clearly a huge part of any solution. But the PM is being accused of techno-optimism bias, because he does not mention other key factors in reducing emissions. In fact, experts say, tackling climate change will need action right across society and the economy - with a host of new incentives, laws, rules, bans, appliance standards, taxes and institutional innovations. They also warn that citizens behaviour must shift, with people probably driving and flying less, and eating less meat and dairy produce. In other words, when it comes to cutting carbon emissions, there s no silver bullet – it s more like silver buckshot. But Boris Johnson still seems to have a bandolero stuffed with technologies resembling silver bullets. Let s see whether they ll go with a bang. Clean cars Take cars. The prime minister is due to accelerate the transition towards battery- and hydrogen-powered vehicles. But Professor Jillian Anable from Leeds University warns that even electric cars pose "their own problems that politicians seem reluctant to acknowledge." “Producing electricity and hydrogen requires huge numbers of wind farms or the like, and the cars themselves need resource-hungry tyres, and batteries. Increase car taxes to help climate, advisers say "They also need roads and parking spaces that could otherwise be used for gardens and trees that soak up carbon dioxide," she said. “The harsh reality is that we have to find ways to limit the number of cars and the amount that we drive them” Hydrogen There is widespread agreement that hydrogen will play a role in reducing climate change – but how much, and in what industrial sectors, is another matter. A key question is whether it s sourced from natural gas – which is expensive and, depending on the process used, can yield troublesome carbon dioxide as a by-product - or by using surplus wind energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The latter process does the job cleanly but at still greater cost. Jess Ralston, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank, said: “Hydrogen can power cars, but electricity seems to have won that technology race. It could heat homes, but electric heat pumps are emerging as a better bet. “Hydrogen could be really useful, though, in industries such as steelmaking and in heavy transport – including buses that we re already seeing. But it s no silver bullet.” Aviation On aviation, the prime minister has launched his ambition to devise clean planes. He calls the project “jet zero”. Industry figures appreciate his boosterish support, but critics warn "jet zero" mustn t divert attention from the short-term need for rules and taxes to hold down aviation emissions after Covid. Cait Hewitt from the Aviation Environment Federation told us: “No zero-carbon technology options are currently available for commercial aviation. She explains: "Planes use masses of energy. Batteries aren t powerful enough except for tiny planes, and we can only produce biofuels sustainably in small quantities. “We need a major rollout of radical new technologies, and we need the capacity to remove remaining aircraft emissions from the atmosphere. But she says that “given how far we are from delivering these things, we ll also probably need to fly less.” UK governments have agonised for decades about nuclear energy, but Boris Johnson recently gave it the nod. That means he s likely to either agree a financial package for a new station at Sizewell or for small modular reactors, or both. But nuclear is still a divisive issue. While it "could definitely help to reduce emissions," said Professor Jim Watson, from UCL, "it s very expensive." “To play a major role, the cost of new nuclear plants will really need to fall, especially when the costs of other technologies like wind and solar have dropped so far. “And nuclear developers will need to show that they can build their plants more quickly because we need all electricity to be low carbon within the next 10 years.” He agreed that mini reactors might bring down costs – but said it was far too soon to be certain. Capturing carbon The prime minister has professed himself “an evangelist" for the technology that captures carbon dioxide as it is emitted from factories and power stations and either stores it in underground rocks or uses it for new chemicals. Two decades ago it was touted as a climate saviour, but it s very expensive and has never taken off. The main climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the technology must be used to capture the emissions from trees being burned for energy. This way, the plants suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and the emissions are buried - helping to turn climate change into reverse. It s known as Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). But the IPCC s Professor Jim Skea says there are "potential problems." He explained: "If the trees are grown on land that would otherwise be used for producing food then there are problems with food security. And if we plant acres and acres of land with the same type of tree there are implications for wildlife.” Silver buckshot? So much for silver bullets. But what about the silver buckshot I mentioned earlier? Well, a long list of policies requires government attention, including: standards for new homes; green recovery; food production; planning rules; peat; heat and buildings; meat eating; infrastructure statement; road building; carbon dioxide in soil; medium-term emissions targets; tree planting; energy storage; industrial strategy; appliance standards; and the comprehensive spending review. I ll examine some of the non-technology innovations for tackling climate change in a future article.
Airbnb announced it will be working with former Apple design chief Jony Ive on future products. The vacation rental platform called the deal a "multi-year relationship" with Ive and his new design firm LoveFrom. In addition to helping design "the next generation of Airbnb products and services," Ive will work with the company s internal design team. Airbnb s announcement was light on further details, but noted that Ive and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky have been "good friends" for many years. Last year, Ives left Apple after nearly 30 years to start his own company. Apple (AAPL) continues to be a major client of his new firm. Ive is credited as one of the masterminds behind blockbuster products like the iMac, iPod and iPhone.The move comes ahead of Airbnb s expected initial public offering. In August, Airbnb filed confidential paperwork for an IPO, just months after the pandemic upended the travel industry and forced the startup to lay off a quarter of its employees. The pandemic rattled its business and many of the hosts who power it. In May, Chesky wrote in a letter to employees that its business had been "hit hard" and revenue for the year was expected to be less than half of what the company earned in 2019. He also announced that Airbnb would let go nearly 1,900 employees around the world. Since then, Airbnb said it has seen bookings bounce back and longer-term bookings rise. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Airbnb is seeking to raise about $3 billion in its upcoming IPO, which could happen in December.
Although my parents refused to allow me to join the Muslim Brotherhood group, my father used to deal with the matter rationally and calmly. I was surprised by his his cool reaction until I knew the reason, as he knew I was going to leave this group sooner or later. At the time my mother was trying to force me to move away from them in a violent confrontational way, even by preventing me from leaving the house, wh