Trump’s travel ban still doesn’t make any sense – Washington Post

Want smart analysis of the most important news in your inbox every weekday along with other global reads, interesting ideas and opinions to know? Sign up for the Today’s WorldView newsletter.

It’s not surprising that President Trump was “very pleased” following the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to partially reinstate the White House’s travel ban on refugees and citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. Two iterations of the controversial executive order prompted protests at airports and legal challenges, and both were thwarted by injunctions issued by federal courts. For a president short of significant political victories and surrounded by scandal, the high court’s announcement felt like a win.

Very grateful for the 9-O decision from the U. S. Supreme Court. We must keep America SAFE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2017

But it’s hardly a triumph. The Supreme Court decided to allow a limited version of the ban to come into effect — targeting the supposedly “terror-prone” countries of Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Sudan — but it will hear arguments in the case in the fall.

Given that the executive order was framed as a temporary stopgap while the Trump administration revamped vetting procedures, the court may very well rule there is no longer a need for such a blanket ban. Other observers counter that the nature of the court’s unsigned opinion suggests its justices are seeking compromise and will be loath to take such a politically provocative act as scrapping the ban outright.

Moreover, the court made a significant exemption: It said the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

What does this mean in practice? “For now, if you have a relative here, have been hired by a U.S. employer or admitted to a U.S. university, you can still probably get a visa,” explained my colleague Matt Zapotosky. “But if you’re applying cold as a visitor or through the diversity visa program, you probably can’t.”

It is already extremely difficult to get a visa to the United States from most developing countries without the right family connections or justification, such as enrollment in an American university. As a result, the pool of people likely blocked by the current ban has shrunk drastically. Of course, refugees still remain frozen out — unfairly so, as I explained earlier.

Undoubtedly, the new status quo will throw up its own wrinkles and challenges. Who, for example, decides what a “bona fide relationship” is?

But whatever the case, it’s important to remember that the travel ban on its face makes very little sense. The two federal appeals courts that ruled against it said separately that Trump’s order was neither discriminatory toward Muslims nor necessary for national security, despite the White House’s continued insistence.

“There is no finding that present vetting standards are inadequate, and no finding that absent the improved vetting procedures there likely will be harm to our national interests,” the judges of the 9th Circuit wrote. “These identified reasons do not support the conclusion that the entry of nationals from the six designated countries would be harmful to our national interests.”

Not a single person has died in a terrorist attack on American soil carried out by a citizen from one of the six nations covered by the ban. Since the Refugee Act of 1980 set up a system for vetting refugees to the United States, no person accepted as a refugee has been implicated in a fatal terrorist attack. Critics of the order have also nitpicked in the past about the absence of other “terror-prone” nations in the ban’s purview, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan or even Saudi Arabia, whence 15 of the 9/11 attackers came. And, while Trump voices fear over foreign threats, he has been conspicuously quiet about the scourge of domestic terrorism within the United States.


Mourners at a memorial for the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. (Amanda Voisard)

The broader point the ban’s opponents make is that singling out immigrants, tourists and refugees based on their country of origin will do little to keep the United States safe, while badly damaging the nation’s reputation abroad.

“Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents. Moreover, while a range of citizenship statuses are represented, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident,” concluded a recent report by the New America Foundation. “In addition about a quarter of the extremists are converts, further confirming that the challenge cannot be reduced to one of immigration.”

The judges of the 9th Circuit added that simply emphasizing the imperatives of national security can’t be a ” ‘talismanic incantation’ that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power.”

The White House repeatedly points to the efforts of the Obama administration, which originally drew up this list of seven countries that required further scrutiny when vetting visa applications. But President Barack Obama never called for citizenship-based immigration bans and actively pushed for Syrian refugee resettlement in the face of heated domestic opposition.

The underlying impetus has always been Trump’s desire to make real a campaign promise for some kind of Muslim ban — “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” as he put it in 2015. Taking into account the statements of both Trump and his allies before and after last year’s election, the 4th Circuit court had ruled that the executive order “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday doesn’t strip away the moral validity of the arguments posed by the ban’s critics. And the court’s justices wrote “the relief we grant today” should enable the White House “to conclude its internal work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life of [the order].” If the Trump administration seeks to extend the ban well beyond the summer, it will be all the more clear that its motives aren’t quite as benign as it claims.

Want smart analysis of the most important news in your inbox every weekday along with other global reads, interesting ideas and opinions to know? Sign up for the Today’s WorldView newsletter.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Syria denies US allegations of coming chemical attack – Washington Post

By Philip Issa and Jill Colvin | AP,

BEIRUT — The Syrian government on Tuesday dismissed White House allegations that it was preparing a new chemical weapons attack, as activists reported an airstrike on an Islamic State-run jail in eastern Syria that they said killed more than 40 prisoners.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 15 militants were also killed in the airstrike that happened on Monday in the Deir El-Zour province. The activist-run Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet said at least 60 civilians were killed.

The two groups said the U.S.-led coalition was behind the strike. Russia and Syria also carry out airstrikes in Deir el-Zour, and it was not clear how the activists identified the aircraft responsible. The coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ali Haidar, the Syrian minister for national reconciliation, meanwhile dismissed a White House statement Monday that warned Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government against carrying out another chemical attack. Haidar told The Associated Press the charges foreshadowed a new diplomatic campaign against Syria at the U.N.

The Kremlin also dismissed the White House statement, which had warned that Assad and his military would “pay a heavy price” if it goes ahead with the attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.”

Russia is Assad’s key backer and sided with him when he denied responsibility for a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people in Idlib province on April 4. Days later, President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.

Peskov criticized the Trump administration for using the phrase “another chemical weapons attack,” arguing that an independent investigation into the April attack was never conducted despite Russia’s calls for one.

The statement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before the attack in April, but provided no evidence or further explanation.

Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to have been discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.

The officials weren’t authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.

A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and allied forces have faced recent setbacks.

A senior Russian lawmaker dismissed the U.S. warning as “provocation.”

Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, accused the United States of “preparing a new attack on the positions of Syrian forces.”

The U.S. strike in April was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president.

Trump said at the time that the chemical attack crossed “many, many lines,” and called on “all civilized nations” to join the U.S. in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.

Syria denied using chemical weapons. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory.

The U.S. attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war. Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict.

The U.S. is providing air support and arms to Kurdish-led Syrian forces who are fighting to drive the Islamic State group from Raqqa, the extremists’ self-styled capital.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that Washington would continue to provide weapons after the Raqqa battle is over. His comments were likely to anger Turkey, which views the Kurdish fighters as an extension of the insurgency raging in its southeast.

On Monday, Trump had dinner with Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked earlier Monday about the need to secure a cease-fire in Syria, fight extremist groups and prevent the use of chemical weapons, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, followed up Spicer’s statement with a Twitter warning: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

Less than an hour after Spicer issued the statement, Trump was back to tweeting about the 2016 campaign, denouncing investigations into potential collusion between Moscow and his campaign aides as a “Witch Hunt!”

__

Colvin reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Vivian Salama and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

US threatens Syria, says Assad is planning chemical weapons attack – Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Croatian newspaper Vecernji List in Damascus, Syria, in this handout picture provided by SANA on April 6, 2017. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Croatian newspaper Vecernji List in Damascus, Syria, in this handout picture provided by SANA on April 6, 2017. SANA/Handout via

REUTERS

By Jeff Mason and John Walcott| WASHINGTON

The White House warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday that he and his military would “pay a heavy price” if it conducted a chemical weapons attack and said the United States had reason to believe such preparations were underway.

The White House said in a statement released late on Monday the preparations by Syria were similar to those undertaken before an April 4 chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians and prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.

“The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

“If … Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price,” he said.

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment on potential U.S. plans or the intelligence that prompted the statement about Syria’s preparations for an attack.

Trump, who took to Twitter not long after the statement went out, focused his attention on a Fox News report related to former President Barack Obama and the 2016 election rather than developments in Syria.

Trump ordered the strike on the Shayrat airfield in Syria in April in reaction to what Washington said was a poison gas attack by Assad’s government that killed 87 people in rebel-held territory. Syria denied it carried out the attack.

Assad said in an interview with the AFP news agency earlier this year that the alleged April attack was “100 percent fabrication” used to justify a U.S. air strike.

The strike was the toughest direct U.S. action yet in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, raising the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main military backers.

‘ABNORMAL ACTIVITY’

U.S. and allied intelligence officers had for some time identified several sites where they suspected the Assad government may have been hiding newly made chemical weapons from inspectors, said one U.S. official familiar with the intelligence.

The assessment was based in part on the locations, security surrounding the suspect sites and other information which the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to describe.

The White House warning, the official said, was based on new reports of what was described as abnormal activity that might be associated with preparations for a chemical attack.

Although the intelligence was not considered conclusive, the administration quickly decided to issue the public warning to the Assad regime about the consequences of another chemical attack on civilians in an attempt to deter such a strike, said the official, who declined to discuss the issue further.

At the time of the April strike, U.S. officials called the intervention a “one-off” intended to deter future chemical weapons attacks and not an expansion of the U.S. role in the Syrian war.

The United States has taken a series of actions over the past three months demonstrating its willingness to carry out strikes, mostly in self-defense, against Syrian government forces and their backers, including Iran.

The United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Twitter: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.”

Washington has repeatedly struck Iranian-backed militia and even shot down a drone threatening U.S.-led coalition forces since the April military strike. The U.S. military also shot down a Syrian jet earlier this month.

Trump has also ordered stepped-up military operations against the Islamic State militant group and delegated more authority to his generals.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and John Walcott; Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Patricia Zengerle, and Michelle Nichols; Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Jeff Mason; Editing by Paul Tait)

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

GOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural vote – The Hill

Time is ticking away on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteConservative groups hammer Senate healthcare reform billThe Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nationMORE’s hopes of passing ObamaCare repeal legislation before the July 4 recess.

A CBO score that found the legislation would leave 22 million more people without insurance in the next decade has raised the stakes on a procedural vote that could come as soon as Tuesday.

At least four Republicans say they may vote against their party on the motion to proceed, underscoring the opposition to McConnell’s bill.

The defectors include centrist Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteThe Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nationJohnson becomes fourth GOP senator unwilling to proceed on healthcare billMORE (Maine), who panned the bill on Twitter Monday evening; fellow moderate Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteThe Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nationHeller under siege, even before healthcareMORE (R-Nev.); and two conservatives, Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteConservative groups hammer Senate healthcare reform billThe Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nationMORE (R-Ky.) and Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteConservative groups hammer Senate healthcare reform billThe Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nationMORE (R-Wis.).

McConnell can only afford two defections.

ADVERTISEMENT

A loss on the procedural vote would certainly end work on the measure this week, and it could be a brutal blow to getting the legislation through the Senate on a later timeframe.

Despite the uphill climb, McConnell’s lieutenants on Monday voiced optimism.

“I’m very optimistic, yes,” Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteConservative groups hammer Senate healthcare reform billSenate adds penalty for going uninsured to healthcare billMORE (R-Texas) told reporters when asked if he still stood by his guarantee from a week ago that the legislation would muster 50 votes.

But Cornyn isn’t saying when the vote will take place.

If GOP leaders can wrangle the votes, it will happen Tuesday. If they can’t get it Tuesday, they will try for Wednesday.

And if that doesn’t work, it may get pushed to beyond the July 4 recess, which would give opponents time to pressure GOP senators over the holiday break.

“We may not know if we have the votes to pass it until we bring it up,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn ThuneGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteFour GOP senators will vote against taking up healthcare bill without changesWeek ahead in tech: Lawmakers turn focus to self-driving cars MORE (R-S.D.), the third-ranking member of the GOP leadership.

Rank-and-file Republican senators realize that they have limited time to further mold the legislation and once the motion to proceed passes, kicking off 20 hours of debate and a flurry of amendments in the Senate’s vote-a-rama process, the proceedings will become harried and hectic.

GOP leaders are confident the rebels will come around if given the right concessions – or at least the chance to claim a victory to constituents back home.

Paul is the only senator who’s viewed as a certain no.

He has said for months that he does not support creating a new system of tax credits to funnel federal dollars to insurance companies to help low-income people buy insurance. He argues this would set up a new entitlement that he calls “ObamaCare Lite.”

The junior Kentucky senator hopes to broker a deal to repeal parts of ObamaCare that all Republicans agree should go, even if they make up a small part of the controversial deal.

The other lawmakers are considered in play, despite their posturing in the days ahead of key floor votes.

John Weaver, a Republican strategist and former senior advisor to Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who opposes the Senate bill, said it would be very difficult for conservatives to kill the legislation — especially on a procedural vote.

Johnson, Lee and Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteConservative groups hammer Senate healthcare reform billThe Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nationMORE (R-Texas) are demanding regulatory reforms for their votes, which risks upsetting the political balance that has kept moderates on board so far.

But conservatives would face a backlash if they blowup the ObamaCare repeal and replace effort, Weaver said.

“Their demands are tougher to meet but the political pressure on them to support it is greater. I think that’s why they’ll support it,” he said.

One Republican source close to McConnell noted that Johnson ran for office as a long-shot Tea Party candidate in 2010 in response to the conservative outcry over ObamaCare.

“Ron Johnson ran for political office to repeal ObamaCare. I can’t believe he won a second term to prevent that from happening,” said the source.

Another group of Republicans, Sens. Rob PortmanRob PortmanGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteGOP super-PAC promises big spending in 2018Five takeaways from the CBO score on Senate ObamaCare billMORE (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteFive takeaways from the CBO score on Senate ObamaCare billTrump phones Senate holdouts on GOP healthcare billMORE (R-W.Va.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerGOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural voteKoch political leader says GOP healthcare bill not conservative enoughMotorcycle officer in Pence motorcade injured after crashMORE (R-Colo.), are worried about phasing out generous federal funding of expanded Medicaid enrollment. They met with leaders in McConnell’s Capitol office Monday evening to extract last-minute changes.

“Just continue to talk about ways that we can assure that we’re bringing down costs and understand the analysis that’s going to show that,” Gardner said after the meeting.

Placating moderates such as Collins, Heller, Portman and Capito could come down to guaranteeing resources for constituents who face the biggest potential impact, such as people who rely on Medicaid to treat opioid addiction.

While the Congressional Budget Office score released Monday projected that there would be 22 million more people without insurance by 2026 because of the legislation, it contained some good news, too.

The score estimated that premiums, a major concern of Johnson and other GOP critics, would lower average premiums after 2020 relative to projections under current law.

It also projected the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over the next decade, considerably more than the House version.

That gives McConnell room to make concessions to wavering moderates in the form of extra spending for constituents who could be hardest hit, such as low-income seniors in rural areas or families struggling with opioid addiction.

“I think we’ll have some additional work to do,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters, noting “there’s enough excess revenue” above the House bill to make significant concessions.  

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Google hit with record EU fine over Shopping service – BBC News

Google has been fined 2.42bn euros ($2.7bn; £2.1bn) by the European Commission after it ruled the company had abused its power by promoting its own shopping comparison service at the top of search results.

The amount is the regulator’s largest penalty to date against a company accused of distorting the market.

The ruling also orders Google to end its anti-competitive practices within 90 days or face a further penalty.

The US firm said it may appeal.

However, if it fails to change the way it operates the Shopping service within the three-month deadline, it could be forced to make payments of 5% of its parent company Alphabet’s average daily worldwide earnings.

Based on the company’s most recent financial report, that amounts to about $14m a day.

The commission said it was leaving it to Google to determine what alterations should be made to its Shopping service rather than specifying a remedy.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” declared Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s Competition Commissioner.

“It has denied other companies the chance to compete on their merits and to innovate, and most importantly it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition, genuine choice and innovation.”

Ms Vestager added that the decision could now set a precedent that determines how she handles related complaints about the prominence Google gives to its own maps, flight price results and local business listings within its search tools.

Google had previously suggested that Amazon and eBay have more influence over the public’s spending habits and has again said it does not accept the claims made against it.

“When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily,” a spokesman said in response to the ruling.

“And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.

“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case.”

Fast growth

Google Shopping displays relevant products’ images and prices alongside the names of shops they are available from and review scores, if available.

The details are labelled as being “sponsored”, reflecting the fact that, unlike normal search results, they only include items that sellers have paid to appear.

On smartphones, the facility typically dominates “above-the-fold” content, meaning users might not see any traditional links unless they scroll down.

Google also benefits from the fact the Shopping service adverts are more visual than its text-based ads.

One recent study suggested Shopping accounts for 74% of all retail-related ads clicked on within Google Search results. However, the BBC understands Google’s own data indicates the true figure is smaller.

Seven-year probe

The European Commission has been investigating Google Shopping since late 2010.

The probe was spurred on by complaints from Microsoft, among others.

The rival tech giant has opted not to comment on the ruling, after the two struck a deal last year to try to avoid such legal battles in the future.

However, one of the other original complainants – the price comparison service Foundem – welcomed the announcement.

“Although the record-breaking 2.42bn euro fine is likely to dominate the headlines, the prohibition of Google’s immensely harmful search manipulation practices is far more important,” said its chief executive Shivaun Raff.

“For well over a decade, Google’s search engine has played a decisive role in determining what most of us read, use and purchase online. Left unchecked, there are few limits to this gatekeeper power.”


Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

This is a big moment in a clash between the EU and the US’s tech giants, which has been going on for more than a decade.

The commission believes it has struck a blow for consumers and for little firms at a time when online advertising – particularly on mobile phones – is dominated by Google and Facebook.

Google believes the regulator has a weak case and has failed to provide evidence that either consumers or rivals have been harmed.

In essence, it sees this as a political move rather than one based on competition law. You can be pretty confident that the Trump administration will share that view.

There’s mounting anxiety in European capitals about something called Gafa – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – the four American giants that play such a huge role in all of our lives.

That means we can expect further action to try to limit their powers, with the potential for growing political tension between Brussels and Washington.


Although the penalty is record-sized, it could have been bigger.

The commission has the power to fine Alphabet up to 10% of its annual revenue, which was more than $90bn (£70.8bn) in its last financial year.

Alphabet can afford the fine – it currently has more than $172bn of assets.

But one expert said the company would be more concerned about the impact on its future operations.

“If it has to change the appearance of it results and rankings, that’s going to have an impact on how it can monetise search,” said Chris Green, from the tech consultancy Lewis.

“Right now, the way that Google prioritises some of its retail and commercial services generates quite a lot of ad income.

“When you consider the sheer number of search queries that Google handles on a daily basis, that’s a lot of ad inventory going in front of a lot of eyeballs.

“Dent that by even a few percentage points, and there’s quite a big financial drop.”


Europe v US tech:

At her press conference, Margrethe Vestager insisted her action was “based on facts” rather than any prejudice the European Commission might have against US tech companies.

“We have heard allegations of being biased against US companies,” she said.

“I have been going through the statistics… I can find no facts to support any kind of bias.”

But this is far from the first time the European Commission has penalise US tech giants for what it views to be bad behaviour.

Others to have been targeted include:

  • Microsoft (2008) – the Windows-developer was fined €899m for failing to comply with earlier punishments, imposed over its refusal to share key code with its rivals and the bundling of its Explorer browser with its operating system. Five years later, it was told to pay a further €561m for failing to comply with a pledge to provide users a choice screen of browsers
  • Intel (2009) – the chip-maker was ordered to pay €1.06bn for skewing the market by offering discounts conditional on computer-makers avoiding products from its rivals. Intel challenged the fine, and a final court ruling in the matter is expected in 2018
  • Qualcomm (2015) – the chip-maker was accused of illegally paying a customer to use its technology and selling its chipsets below cost to push a rival out of the market. If confirmed, it faces a fine that could top €2bn, but the case has yet to be resolved
  • Apple (2016) – Ireland was ruled to have given up to €13bn of illegal tax benefits to the iPhone-maker since 1991, and was ordered to recover the funds plus interest from the company. However, Dublin missed the deadline it was given to do so and has said it will appeal
  • Facebook (2017) – the social network agreed to pay a €110m fine for saying it could not match user accounts on its main service to those of WhatsApp when it took over the instant messaging platform, and then doing just that two years later

The commission is also investigating Amazon over concerns that a tax deal struck with Luxembourg gave it an unfair advantage.


The European Commission continues to pursue two separate cases against Google.

The first involves allegations that the technology company has made it difficult for others to have their apps and search engines preinstalled on Android devices.

The second covers claims Google took steps to restrict rivals’ ads from appearing on third-party websites that had installed a Google-powered search box.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Google Fined $2.7 Billion in European Antitrust Ruling – New York Times

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals.

The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region’s competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. Google denies the accusations.

By levying the fine — the biggest ever in this type of antitrust case — Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s antitrust chief, has laid down a marker as arguably the Western world’s most aggressive regulator of digital services from the likes of Google and Facebook.

Ms. Vestager has already demanded that Apple repay $14.5 billion in back taxes in Ireland, opened an ongoing investigation into Amazon’s tax practices in Europe and raised concerns about Facebook’s alleged dominance over people’s digital data. The companies deny any wrongdoing.

Such focus on Silicon Valley firms has prompted accusations from some in the United States that Europe is unfairly targeting American companies. The region’s officials vigorously deny these claims.

But with the record antitrust fine against Google — larger than the previous high of €1.06 billion against Intel in 2009 — European officials have gone significantly further than their American counterparts in determining what is, and is not, allowed to take place on the web.

“What Google has done is illegal under E.U. antitrust rules,” said Ms. Vestager in a statement on Tuesday. “It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

Google has repeatedly denied that it has breached Europe’s tough competition rules, saying that its digital services have helped the region’s digital economy to grow and are used by hundreds of millions of Europeans each day. It also adds that there remains significant online competition in Europe, including from the likes of Amazon and eBay.

Google is likely to consider an appeal.

The antitrust ruling on Tuesday related to Google’s online shopping service, which the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said received preferential treatment compared to those of rivals in specialized search results.

Analysts say these so-called vertical search products — that also include those for restaurant and business reviews — represent a fast-growing percentage of Google’s annual revenues.

While the fine is likely to garner much of the attention, focus will quickly shift to the changes that Google will now be forced to make to comply with Europe’s antitrust decision.

Under European rules, the search giant — and not the regulator — must come up with proposals to guarantee that it treats competitors fairly when people make online search queries. The authorities can demand that Google make further changes if they are not satisfied with the initial proposals.

Analysts and many of Google’s competitors have called for an independent monitor to oversee the company’s digital services in Europe, which may potentially extend to tough oversight of its search algorithms, some of Google’s most important intellectual property. The search giant is likely to fiercely oppose such a remedy.

Google has other options, including the removal of some of its specialized search services from Europe, as well as returning them to how they operated before Europe’s investigation began almost a decade ago.

Whatever the outcome, analysts expect a protracted legal battle that will continue for several years as both Google and its rivals fight to define how the search giant can offer its services to Europeans and those farther afield.

“The changes could have ramifications beyond Google Shopping, and might even impact Google’s operations in the U.S.,” a number of American companies that have filed antitrust complaints against Google said in a public letter ahead of the ruling on Tuesday. The signatories included Oracle, News Corporation and Yelp.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Republicans eye billions in side deals to win Obamacare repeal votes – Politico

White House and Capitol Hill officials are exploring potential deals to divvy up billions of dollars to individual senators’ priorities in a wide-ranging bid to secure votes for the imperiled GOP health care bill.

A Congressional Budget office score that projected 22 million fewer Americans would have insurance under the plan sent some members fleeing Monday and left the bill in jeopardy of failing to have enough votes to even be called to the Senate floor this week.

Story Continued Below

But Republicans in the White House and in Congress were pleasantly surprised that the bill included more savings than they expected — and are trying to figure out if they can dole it out for votes.

The Senate has about $188 billion to play with.

Among the possible changes: More spending for health savings accounts to appease conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, according to three people familiar with the matter, and some additional Medicaid and opioid spending for moderates.

“We are still working with leadership to change the base bill,” a Lee aide said.

Lee, Cruz and others on the right have been looking to wipe out as much of Obamacare as possible and replace it with health savings accounts, group plans and selling insurance across state lines, among other ideas. It’s not clear if the Senate parliamentarian would allow all of those proposals through under strict reconciliation rules. And Lee will likely require far more dramatic changes to be won over.

The bill remains in peril. It is also unclear whether there is enough money to give out that could win over the divided GOP conference.

Time is of the essence.

McConnell has said he wants a vote this week no matter what, even as some White House officials have said they wouldn’t mind a delay and are fearful the votes aren’t there with the current legislation.

“You could make an argument for delaying it if you could get a better policy but this is the best we could do to satisfy all the different aspects of our conferences,” Thune said.

“There’s no reason not to get this done this week,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. “And the CBO score was a little better than I thought it would be.”

White House officials said they were increasingly looking to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) — and if the two maintained their opposition, the bill was likely dead. Senate leadership has largely written off Paul, and a Trump outside group has begun attacking Heller, drawing some head-scratching from Senate aides.

Tim Alberta contributed to this report.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)