Google Drops Bid for Massive Military Cloud Computing Contract Amid Employee Pressure

An empty chair reserved for a top executive for Google’s parent company Alphabet amid a September hearing on the Senate Intelligence Committee on “Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms,” which Alphabet declined to send a top executive to attend.
Photo: Jose Luis Magana (AP)

Google has dropped out of the competition for a Pentagon cloud computing project that could be worth as much as $10 billion and last up to a decade, citing a possible clash with its corporate values, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project, which involves the mass transfer of data previously handled by defense contractors to a commercial competitor, offers a big enough potential payout that it had attracted the attention of giants like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Bids are due in under a week on October 12th. However, Bloomberg reported that Google is now opting not to pursue the contract because it might violate their “AI principles,” just months after it decided not to renew a separate Pentagon contract reviewing drone imagery titled Project Maven:

Google’s announcement on Monday came just months after the company decided not to renew its contract with a Pentagon artificial intelligence program, after extensive protests from employees of the internet giant about working with the military. The company then released a set of principles designed to evaluate what kind of artificial intelligence projects it would pursue.

“We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”

Bloomberg added that a Google spokesperson said, had an effort by a number of companies including Microsoft, International Business Machines Corp., and Oracle Corp. to split the contract into pieces succeeded, the company could have “submitted a compelling solution for portions of it.”

The decision to back out of Project Maven occurred after thousands of employees signed a petition asking the company to stop working with the military, with numerous employees resigning in protest. Sources told Gizmodo that Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene had characterized the issue as a major headache for management. Though Maven itself was of limited value to the company, senior Google executives allegedly viewed it as a gateway to lucrative defense contracts involving projects like as surveillance systems that could monitor entire cities.

The JEDI project could have been used to support combat operations, raising yet more ethical red flags. Earlier this year, Defense One reported that Google co-founder Sergey Brin and CEO Sundar Pichai were instrumental in sparking the Pentagon’s interest in cloud computing, though the company had only quietly pursued a contract amid fears of a strong reaction from rank and file staffers. The site explained that JEDI would essentially put Google staff in the potentially ethically compromising position of providing de facto combat support to the U.S. military:

The Defense Department’s cloud needs are directly related to its ambitions for highly networked warfare across air, sea, land, space and cyberspace. That cloud provider will be helping the military hit targets and execute missions better, and much, much faster, even if the cloud is not formally involved in target selection or engagement, a job that the Pentagon maintains will continue to be done by human troops for the foreseeable future.

In March, Defense One reported, Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said, “When we look at the future, and discuss not only how to do we connect systems, connect computers at the tactical edge—most of things we are talking about are standalone computers—we have a real opportunity to ask, ‘How do we connect these?’ …How could we speed decision-making to the point where we have humans doing only what humans need to do?”

In a statement to Bloomberg, the Tech Workers Coalition said that “sustained” pressure from employees opposed to Google involvement in JEDI showed workers “have significant power, and are increasingly willing to use it.”

The front-runner for the contract is widely believed to be Amazon, which already has a $600 million contract with the CIA. As the Washington Post wrote, Amazon is also one of the only major companies that supported a single, winner-take-all approach to the bidding process, which competitors have complained could essentially give it a monopoly on cloud computing contracts for the military in the future.

[Bloomberg]

Read More

Oil prices rise on signs that Iranian crude exports fall further

Oil prices rose on Tuesday as more evidence emerged that crude exports from Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, are declining in the run-up to the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions and as a hurricane moved across the Gulf of Mexico.

Brent crude was up 26 cents, 0.3 percent, at $84.17 a barrel by 0244 GMT. On Monday, Brent fell to a low of $82.66, but mostly recovered as investors bet China’s economic stimulus would boost crude demand. Brent rose to a four-year high of $86.74 last week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down by 24 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $74.53 a barrel. WTI fell to as low as $73.07 in the previous session but closed just 5 cents lower.

Iran’s crude exports fell further in the first week of October, according to tanker data and an industry source, as buyers are seeking alternatives ahead of the start of the U.S. sanctions on Nov. 4 and creating a challenge to other OPEC oil producers as they seek to cover the shortfall.

The Islamic Republic exported 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude in that seven-day period, Refinitiv Eikon data showed. An industry source who also tracks exports said October shipments were so far below 1 million bpd.

That is down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed sanctions. The figure also marks a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.

Last week, Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), announced plans to lift crude output next month to 10.7 million bpd, a record.

“Iranian barrels are declining fast, and Saudi Arabia’s promise to balance will face a reality check in a month’s time,” J.P.Morgan said in an oil market note.

Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on Monday called a Saudi claim that the kingdom could replace Iran’s crude exports “nonsense.”

“Iran’s oil cannot be replaced by Saudi Arabia nor any other country,” Zanganeh said, according to his ministry’s website.

Oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico shut down 19 percent of oil production as Hurricane Michael moved toward eastern Gulf states including Florida.

If current forecasts prove accurate, the hurricane would largely miss major producing assets in the Gulf, analysts said, but any change of track could widen the impact.

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its global economic growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019, saying that trade policy tensions and rising import tariffs were taking a toll on commerce while emerging markets struggle with tighter financial conditions and capital outflows.

Read More

Attention Denver flyers: United is going to tweak its DIA schedule next year

United Airlines will shake up its scheduling at Denver International Airport next year in order to provide more morning flights to both coasts.

The new schedule begins in February, United announced. The key change is the airline is getting rid of one of the 10 “banks” of flights it employs at Denver International Airport now. Banking is a practice carriers use to cluster flights at similar times to smooth out connections and reduce wait times. United is going from using 10 banks to nine at DIA.

The first bank of each day will begin at 7:50 a.m. and include more flights than before. The goal is to get more business travelers to more destinations earlier in the day, according to the airline.

The second bank of the day, beginning at 9:20 a.m., will feature only flights going west, while the third bank, staring at 10:50 a.m., will be flights headed east, the opposite of the existing schedule.

United averages about 400 flights out of DIA daily, officials say, and continues to expand offerings. This year, it added direct service to London among its new destinations.

Read More

World’s longest flight on SIA will have no economy seats

Tue, Oct 09, 2018 – 8:51 AM

[SYDNEY] Long-haul flights half way across the globe are making a comeback even with oil prices close to their highest in four years.

About six months after Qantas Airways started a direct service from Perth to London, Singapore Airlines (SIA) is bringing back its 10,400-mile jump to New York on Oct 11, pipping Qatar Airways’ Doha-Auckland route to reclaim the title of the world’s longest commercial flight.

Advances in technology and the advent of aircraft that guzzle less and carry more fuel are helping make the Singapore route viable again, five years after US$100-a-barrel oil contributed to the demise of the flight, which will take as long as 18 hours and 45 minutes.

Last month, SIA took delivery of the first of seven Airbus A350-900 Ultra Long Range aircraft that it will use on the route as well as for non-stop services to Los Angeles starting in November. Qantas has asked Boeing and Airbus to design planes that can fly even farther – from Sydney to London or New York.

For those wincing at the idea of being cooped up for almost 19 hours in a 220-foot tube at 35,000 feet, here’s what to expect on the flight from Changi Airport to Newark Liberty International:

MORE SPACE

Forget cattle class. The Airbus jet that will ply the route carries a maximum of 161 passengers, compared with 253 on the airline’s existing A350-900s. That means more space, with 67 flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration for business class and 94 premium economy places in a mostly 2-4-2 arrangement at the rear.

While the premium-economy seats offer an eight-inch recline, the pitch — the distance between yours and the one in front – is a standard 38 inches, 4 inches less than on some of Japan Airlines’ long-haul flights.

LOBSTER THERMIDOR

SIA says it will serve dishes on super-long routes that try to offset the effect of being stuck in a seat for a day.

The airline’s ‘Wellness Set Menu’ offers prawn ceviche, organic chicken and zucchini pappardelle. A tie-up with Canyon Ranch offers “science-based recommendations and strategies for improved sleep, balanced meal choices and exercises that promote circulation.” Try the braised pork with citrus or the seared chicken and wide zucchini ribbons for dishes with less salt and sugar and more turmeric and fennel that Canyon says promote hydration and nutrition.

As with other Singapore Air long-haul routes, you can eat local favorites such as chicken rice and beef hor fun, or ‘Book the Cook,’ a service that allows you to order dishes like lobster thermidor or rib-eye steak up to 24 hours before the flight.

And if the airline’s International Culinary Panel of celebrity chefs can’t tempt you, you can always pre-order a burger.

SANDRA BULLOCK

For the Internet-addicted traveler worried about being incommunicado for almost a whole day, the flight offers Wi-Fi, for a price. A business-class ticket gets 30 megabytes of data for free. An additional 20MB, just enough for an hour on Facebook, costs US$6, with bigger packages offering up to 200MB for US$28. SIA says data speed could be 4-8 Mbps, depending on active users, satellite coverage and weather conditions.

For film-lovers that shouldn’t be a problem. The airline has added 200 hours of movies and television shows to the 1,000 already available, with everything from new releases like ‘Ocean’s 8′ to art-house and international movies.

SLEEPING PILOTS

The four SIA pilots (two captains and two first officers) on each ultralong-range A350-900 aren’t allowed to fly to New York unless they haven’t flown for 48 hours prior to take-off. They get extra down time on board, with at least eight hours of rest, compared with 5½ hours on a typical long-haul service, according to SIA. When they land in New York, pilots have three nights off before flying back to Singapore.

The 13-strong cabin crew will get at least four hours rest during the flight and two days to enjoy New York before the return leg.

WEIGHT LOSS

When SIA scrapped the previous Singapore-New York flight in 2013, oil was trading around US$100 a barrel. With crude prices above US$80 again, the carrier is relying more on technology to mitigate the fuel bill.

That means keeping the plane as light as possible.

Lightweight composites including carbon fiber make up the bulk of the A350-900ULR, while new wing tips help reduce drag, Airbus says. The revamped model consumes 25 percent less fuel than aircraft of a similar size and performance, according to Maria Luisa Lucas Ugena, Airbus’s head of A350 product marketing.

The plane has a higher ceiling, bigger windows and a wider body, with less noise in the cabin and LED lighting that is designed to reduce jet lag. Composite-based planes can also tolerate higher cabin pressure, which means more oxygen and moisture in the air, making for a more comfortable flight.

FULL TANKS

Weight savings alone won’t get the plane to Newark in one hop. Airbus rejigged the fuel system on a standard A350-900 and pumped 17 per cent more jet kerosene into the tanks in the wings. The plane can now hold about 43,590 gallons of fuel, or more than 270 gallons per passenger on a full flight. The A340-500s that plied the route until 2013 had 58,870 gallons for only 100 customers.

BLOOMBERG

Read More

Trump Will Loosen Ethanol Rules, Aiding Anxious Farmers Ahead of Midterm Elections

Want climate news in your inbox? Sign up here for Climate Fwd:, our email newsletter.

WASHINGTON — When President Trump visits Iowa on Tuesday he will unveil a pro-ethanol perk aimed at soothing corn and soybean farmers in the heartland made anxious by his decision to impose tariffs on China, a move that kicked off a trade dispute with a major buyer of American agricultural products.

The trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa, which comes on the heels of campaign rallies in Minnesota and Kansas, is part of Mr. Trump’s efforts help Midwestern Republicans facing tight midterm election races this November because of a backlash to his trade policies. Lawmakers acknowledged that the plan — which will include lifting a federal ban on summer sales of higher ethanol blends of gasoline, something the industry has long sought — will be critical to assuaging farmers in Iowa and elsewhere who have grown deeply worried about the falling prices of corn and soybeans.

“There is anxiety about the president’s program on putting on tariffs,” said Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, though he noted the administration’s successful renegotiation of a trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico has allayed some of those worries.

Still, he said that for farmers, the ethanol announcement “would be a big boost not only because of the anxiety of tariffs but because we’re having another record corn crop and that naturally drives down prices.” Mr. Grassley has long pushed to allow the sale of higher ethanol blend gasoline in summer months. The restrictions have been in place out of concerns that burning more ethanol in hot weather contributes to smog.

Political observers said Tuesday’s rally — where Mr. Trump is also expected to take another victory lap celebrating the elevation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and praise Mr. Grassley’s role, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in shepherding the nominee through the Senate — is a good moment to show gratitude to Iowa’s Republicans.

Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, said he doesn’t see Mr. Trump’s ethanol announcement as a direct reward for Mr. Grassley’s support, but rather as a sign of the mutually beneficial relationship that has emerged between the president and the powerful seven-term senator.

“Trump is basically recognizing that deregulation, which has been part of everything he has been doing since he was sworn in, also applies to agriculture,” Mr. Schmidt said. “And so why not do it for the guy who helped keep the pillars from crumbling in the coliseum on the nomination process of the Supreme Court?”

Under the plan, according a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the policy before it was formally announced, Mr. Trump plans to lift a ban that has traditionally run from June through September on selling gasoline that is blended with 15 percent ethanol. The anti-smog measure, which was imposed in 2011, has been previously criticized by Mr. Trump as “ridiculous.”

The president will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to write a rule allowing the blended fuel to be sold year-round. The rule, which will have a public comment period, will be fast-tracked in order to be finalized before next summer’s driving season, the White House official said.

According to the White House, Mr. Trump will also move to make it easier for the oil industry to comply with federal rules requiring it to either blend ethanol into its products or buy credits. Nevertheless, the oil industry — which vehemently opposes lifting the summertime ban because it could weaken the industry’s market share — has come out strongly against the plan.

The American Petroleum Institute, the country’s largest oil and gas lobbying group, issued a statement that called lifting the summertime ban “ill-advised.” A bipartisan group of 20 oil-state senators also wrote a letter to Mr. Trump arguing that a “one-sided approach” to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires that refiners blend increasing amounts of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supply, is “misguided.”

Led by Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, the lawmakers argued that lifting the summertime ban would “hurt millions of consumers whose vehicles and equipment are not compatible with higher ethanol gasoline, and risk worsening air quality.”

The tension between farmers and the oil industry over ethanol has been a running theme throughout Trump administration. Scott Pruitt, the former administrator of the E.P.A., clashed with Mr. Grassley and other corn-state Republicans for granting small oil refineries waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Mr. Pruitt resigned in July amid ethics scandals, but the loss of support among key Midwest Republicans is widely believed to have hastened his departure.

Mr. Grassley, for his part, said he views Mr. Trump’s announcement as working to fulfill a presidential campaign promise to support the ethanol industry. “Every once in a while every politician has to reinforce their campaign promises,” he said.

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

Lisa Friedman reports on climate and environmental policy in Washington. A former editor at Climatewire, she has covered nine international climate talks. @LFFriedman

A version of this article appears in print on
, on Page
A
12
of the New York edition
with the headline:
Trump to Aid Ethanol Sales In a Bid to Soothe Farmers
. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Read More

Musk Honors Pledge, Donates Cash to Bring Clean Water to Flint, Michigan Schools

Elon Musk has had a rough summer, largely of his own making, but he still found time to honor a commitment to clean water in Flint, Michigan, he had made on Twitter on July 11, 2018. While it seemed to be an idle response to a Twitter user using an obvious attempt at reverse psychology—”NO WAY you could help”—Musk took it seriously.

Musk initially offered to pass along responses from Flint residents whose test results showed unsafe water in order and arrange for the individual installation of filters. He went several steps further, however. On Oct. 5, the Flint Community Schools district announced that Musk and his Musk Foundation had donated nearly $500,000 to provide ultraviolet filtration systems for all 12 of the school buildings in the system and the district’s headquarters building by January 2019. The system will remove lead and kill off bacteria for drinking water, allowing students to use drinking fountains and fill up water bottles.

In a statement, Derrick Lopez, Flint Community Schools Superintendent, said, “We are deeply grateful for the generosity and the budding partnership between Flint Community Schools, the Musk Foundation and Elon Musk. The new water filtration systems will be instrumental in helping our students return to the normalcy of what should be a fundamental right: having access to safe, clean water from water fountains in their school.”

The district thanked Musk and his foundation on Twitter, and Musk replied, “You’re most welcome. Hope to do more to help in the future.”

Musk also lived up to his original tweet, providing direct support for some residents, including the person who first asked him to help.

Feel-good stories—or at least “don’t feel so bad” stories—were overwhelmed last week, especially by Musk’s own news about him tweaking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Twitter, following a tentative settlement between him, Tesla, and the agency about a tweet he made earlier this summer about taking Tesla private.

Tens of thousands of old pipes containing lead are being replaced throughout Flint, but it’s likely to take until at least 2020. While state authorities say the water is now safe to drink, Michigan continues to provide filters. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrician critical in exposing the water contamination, tells people to continue to use bottled or filtered water, in part because the pipe replacement is stirring up lead as well.

Flint’s water system remains a flashpoint at the intersection of race, global trade, rust-belt politics, environmental safety, government austerity, and state-imposed bankruptcy administration. A majority black city, Flint suffered a significant impact decades ago as General Motors reduced operations within the city, and then shut plants in around the town.

The water crisis began four years ago, when the city shifted water sources while under bankruptcy administration to reduce expenses while failing to apply corrosion inhibitors, which reduce the release of heavy metals (notably lead) from the old pipes that were prevalent throughout the economically depressed city. An outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease has also been linked to the water switch. A number of officials at local and state levels were charged with crimes such as willful neglect office and involuntary manslaughter.

While problems first became apparent in 2014, it wasn’t until January 2016 that the governor declared a state of emergency for Flint’s county. While water tested starting in early 2017 showed lead levels had dropped to safe levels, ongoing testing in schools found that some samples exceeded thresholds]believed to be safe.

Read More

Trian Considers a Takeover Bid for Papa John’s

Trian Fund Management LP is evaluating a takeover bid for Papa John’s International Inc., people familiar with the matter said.

The activist hedge fund recently contacted the pizza chain to collect information as it explores a possible bid, the people said. Trian is one of several parties to express interest since Papa John’s put itself up for sale amid an acrimonious fight with its founder, John Schnatter, who remains on the board and owns nearly 30% of the company’s shares.

Read More

China says it’s not afraid of trade war with the US — its actions show Beijing is nervous

PBOC’s latest move came at the end of a week-long national day holiday in China. When Chinese markets were closed last week, Hong Kong stocks fell for four consecutive days as investors grew increasingly concerned that the impact of the trade war is starting to show. Experts had expected the sell-off to spill over to the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets when they re-open on Monday.

But the RRR cut did little to calm nerves when stock markets in Greater China stumbled at the start of the week’s trading. Stocks in Shanghai and Shenzhen were down almost 3 percent on Monday morning, while Hong Kong was down close to 1 percent.

“China is a bit nervous. There is so much headwinds towards it now and I think it’s right to prepare for the worst and expect the best,” Gareth Nicholson, head of fixed income at Bank of Singapore, told CNBC’s “The Rundown” on Monday.

But Nicholson noted that if the trade situation deteriorates further, China will have a number of levers to save its economy because President Xi Jinping has “political capital.”

“I mean President Xi, if you think about it, he doesn’t have to worry about another election in six months, 12 months, 18 months. He has that kind of stability that if he needs to turn the taps back on, he doesn’t need to worry about saying ‘this pushes the budget out too much, too much debt,'” Nicholson added.

“He can worry about the debt problems three, four, five years down the line,” Nicholson said.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

Read More

Aavas Financiers falls 13.5 percent on market debut after $235 million IPO

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Shares of Aavas Financiers Ltd dropped as much as 13.5 percent in early trade on their market debut after the mortgage lender raised 17.34 billion rupees ($235 million) from its initial public offering in late September.

A man counts Indian currency notes inside a shop in Mumbai, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/Files

The stock was trading at 722.00 rupees, down 12.06 percent, at 0434 GMT.

The IPO was subscribed 0.9 times at close amid fears of non-banking financial companies facing a credit crunch.

The company provides housing loan to customers belonging to low- and middle-income segment in semi-urban and rural areas.

Read More

Mega Millions, Powerball top $700 million combined; Ohio Lottery results

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The weekend’s lottery drawings brought no overall winners, so the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots now total more than $700 million combined.

Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot is $470 million, while the Powerball prize for Wednesday’s drawing is $282 million.

Friday’s Mega Millions numbers are 27-28-32-41-69 Mega Ball 12 Megaplier 2x. Saturday’s Powerball numbers are 1-22-27-53-67 Powerball 15 Power Play 3x.

Saturday’s Classic Lotto numbers are 6-12-15-31-42-46 Kicker 967275. Monday’s jackpot is $4.9 million.

Sunday’s winning Ohio Lottery numbers are:

Pick 3 evening: 128 (midday, 575)

Pick 4 evening: 1402 (midday, 8455)

Pick 5 evening: 58480 (midday, 04630)

Rolling Cash 5: 4-5-14-19-23

Pick 3 winners receive $500 for a $1 straight bet and the odds of winning are 1-in-1,000. Pick 4 winners receive $5,000 for a $1 straight bet and the odds of winning are 1-in-10,000.

The Rolling Cash 5 jackpot for the next drawing is $120,000 for hitting all five numbers and the odds of winning are 1-in-575,757.

Drawings for Pick 3, Pick 4 and Pick 5 are twice daily, at 12:29 p.m. and 7:29 p.m. The drawing for the Rolling Cash 5 is each night at 7:35 p.m.

Classic Lotto draws at 7:05 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The odds of winning the jackpot with a $1 ticket are 1-in-13,983,816.

Lucky for Life draws at 10:35 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. The odds of winning the jackpot with a $2 ticket are 1 in 30,821,472.

Mega Millions draws on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 p.m. The odds of winning the jackpot with a $2 ticket are 1-in-302,575,350.

Powerball draws on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:59 p.m. The odds of winning the jackpot with a $2 ticket are 1 in 292,201,338.

The official Ohio Lottery site offers more information on instant tickets, raffles and other lottery games.

Read More