Connect with us

Business

If you think Biden’s administration would rein in big tech, think again | John Naughton | Opinion

Published

on

Before the US presidential election I wondered aloud if Mark Zuckerberg had concluded that the re-election of Trump might be better for Facebook than a Biden victory. There were several reasons for thinking this. One was the strange way Zuckerberg appeared to be sucking up to Trump: at least one private dinner in the White House; the way he jumped on to Fox News when Twitter first placed a warning on a Trump tweet to say that Facebook would not be doing stuff like that; and the majority report of the House subcommittee on tech monopolies, in which it was clear that the Democrats had it in for the companies.

But the most significant piece of evidence for the belief that a Biden administration would finally tackle the tech giants, and Facebook in particular, came in the long interview Biden gave last January to the New York Times, in which he was highly critical of the company.

“I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan,” Biden said. “I think he’s a real problem … I’ve been in the view that not only should we be worrying about the concentration of power, we should be worried about the lack of privacy and them being exempt, which you’re not exempt. [The New York Times] can’t write something you know to be false and be exempt from being sued. But he can. The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms.”

As readers of this column know only too well, section 230 of the 1996 US Telecommunications Act is the clause that exempts tech platforms from legal liability for anything that users post on their platforms. It’s the nearest thing social media has to a kill switch. Pull it and their business models evaporate. Trump had been threatening to pull it before the election, but he lacked the attention span to be able to do anything about it. Biden, on the other hand, had already talked about it in January and would have people around him who knew what they were doing. So maybe we were going to get some real progress in getting tech giants under control.

And then he gets elected and what do we find? Biden’s transition eam is packed with tech industry insiders. Tom Sullivan, from Amazon, is earmarked for the Department of State. Mark Schwartz, also from Amazon, is heading for the Office of Management and Budget, as are Divya Kumaraiah from Airbnb and Brandon Belford from Lyft, the ride-hailing company. The US Treasury gets Nicole Isaac from LinkedIn, Microsoft’s department of spam, and Will Fields, who was Sidewalk Labs’ senior development associate. (Sidewalk Labs was the organiser of Google’s attempt – eventually cancelled – to turn Toronto’s waterfront into a data-geyser for surveillance capitalism.) The Environmental Protection Agency, a body that Trump looted and sidelined, gets Ann Dunkin, who is Dell’s chief technology officer. And so on.

Well, I thought, perusing this sordid list, at least there’s nobody from Facebook on it. How innocent can you be? Politico reveals that the joint chair of Biden’s transition team, Jeff Zients, is a former Facebook board member. Another former board member is an adviser. And two others, one who was a Facebook director and another who was a company lobbyist, have, according to Politico “taken leadership roles”. And then, to cap it all, it turns out that Biden himself has a friendly relationship with a guy called Nick Clegg, who was once a serious politician and now doubles as Mark Zuckerberg’s bagman and representative on Earth.

Truly, you couldn’t make this up. And just to add a touch of satire to it, the woman who is now a heartbeat away from the presidency, Kamala Harris, has a career-long record of cosying up to Silicon Valley. She participated, for example, in the marketing campaign for Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s anthem of capitalist feminism, even though at the time Harris was California’s law enforcement official most responsible for overseeing Facebook. As the state’s attorney general, she took a semi-comatose view of the way the big tech companies were allowed to gobble up potential rivals and bulldoze their way into new industries. Facebook’s controversial acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, perhaps the most obvious anti-competitive mergers in the short history of the tech industry, happened on her watch and triggered no regulatory reflex. If Silicon Valley could be said to have a darling, then Ms Harris is it. And all those campaign donations from tech companies and moguls may turn out to have been a shrewd investment after all.

Given these sobering circumstances, how should we calculate the odds of a Biden administration taking on the power of the tech giants? The answer: slightly better than those of a snowball staying cool in hell. But only slightly.

What I’ve been reading

Is 2020 just a taster?
Graeme Wood has written a riveting essay, titled The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse, on the work of Peter Turchin, a quantitative historian who believes he has discovered iron laws that predict the rise and fall of societies.

Birth of an iNation
What if we viewed tech giants as countries? A thoughtful essay in Tortoise Media considers Apple as a one-party state as secretive as China. But more liberal. Phew!

Is less Moore?
I enjoyed a lovely post by Venkatesh Rao on the Ribbonfarm blog, about the mindset induced by living in a world governed by Moore’s Law.


Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

New York Gov. Cuomo reopens Covid field hospital in Staten Island as hospitalizations accelerate

Published

on

By

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wears a protective face mask as he arrives to speak during a daily briefing following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., July 13, 2020.

Mike Segar | Reuters

New York will reopen a temporary field hospital on Staten Island to help treat an influx of coronavirus patients as the New York City borough faces a worsening outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

“Staten Island is a problem,” Cuomo said during a press briefing. There were 91 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Staten Island as of Sunday, a near threefold increase from three weeks ago, Cuomo said.

The field hospital was one of many New York opened in the spring as it fought back a wave of coronavirus infections that overwhelmed its hospital system and killed roughly 800 people every day. However, those emergency facilities largely went unused, Cuomo said.

“This was a planned emergency facility in the spring. We didn’t use it, now we need it,” he said.

Across the state, Covid-19 hospitalizations have jumped 122% over the last three weeks, he said, from 1,227 to 2,724 on Sunday. At that rate, the state projects thousands of more people will be hospitalized in the upcoming weeks. That’s before taking into account the upcoming holidays, which could accelerate the problem, the Democratic governor warned.

“These are dangerous times that we’re in,” Cuomo said. “Before you get to Thanksgiving, we’re already in a bad period.”

This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.


Source link

Continue Reading

Business

Rise in Covid spread puts hospital workers at risk: Allina Health CEO

Published

on

By

The sharp uptick in coronavirus cases across the Midwest is increasing health-care workers’ risk of getting infected, jeopardizing staffing levels needed to care for other Covid-19 patients, according to the CEO of a Minnesota hospital system.

Dr. Penny Wheeler, who leads Minneapolis-based Allina Health, told CNBC on Monday that the not-for-profit health network has more personal protective equipment, ventilators and available beds to care for Covid-19 patients than it had during the initial outbreak in the spring. Nurses and doctors, however, are harder to come by, she said.

“You cannot manufacture a talented and compassionate caregiver,” Wheeler said in a “Squawk on the Street” interview. “And that’s where we’re having trouble with now, especially with so many of them being affected or their family members being affected by community spread in our organization and in the community.”

Wheeler said for that reason, it is imperative people take seriously the public health strategies that can reduce the chain of coronavirus transmission in the community. Doing so reduces the likelihood that hospital workers become sick, she said.

“The need for masking, physical distancing and washing of hands, all those things — I know people are fatigued but so are the health-care workers, and you can keep our health-care workers healthier and able to care for you if you do those things,” Wheeler said. “These are incredibly skilled people, and you can’t replace them.”

Minnesota is one of 25 states seeing record-high hospitalizations for Covid-19 patients, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic. Minnesota also is one of eight states where daily deaths from Covid-19 are at all-time highs, with 48 people on average dying per day in the last week, according to CNBC’s analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

At least 3,297 people in Minnesota have died from Covid-19 during the pandemic, Hopkins data shows.

Wheeler’s concerns about staffing are shared elsewhere across the country, especially in some of Minnesota’s nearby states, which have been hit hard by the fall coronavirus spike. “Our geography in the Midwest, upper Midwest, has been seeing unprecedented numbers of infections and case growth,” she said.

Earlier this month, the head of the University of Wisconsin’s health network told CNBC its seven-hospital system was “short of staff all times, either because they have Covid or they have some other illness and we need to rule out Covid before we bring them back to work.”

“There is no surplus staff to deploy to other hospitals to help each other out, so we’re trying to equal the load. We’re all trying to keep patients local,” UW Health CEO Dr. Alan Kaplan said then.

The U.S. has continued to experience a worsening of its coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks, with daily average new cases setting a series of record highs. While Wheeler said a series of positive developments around Covid-19 vaccines are a “wonderful ray of hope,” the widespread availability is still some time away.

“We just have to hold on … so let’s take what is in our control — mask up, physical distance, wash your hands,” Wheeler said. “We can take that, and then we can bridge that to a time where there’s greater hope in the vaccines in the offing, then we’ll be doing a great service and we’ll have more lives here than lost.”

CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.


Source link

Continue Reading

Business

Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has some advantages over its peers

Published

on

By

AstraZeneca’s building in Luton, Britain.

Tim Ireland | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

LONDON — The coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford was found to be “highly” protective, potentially paving the way for a vaccine that is more affordable and easier to distribute than some of its peers.

An interim analysis of clinical trials showed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had an average efficacy of 70% in protecting against the virus.

Researchers said this figure could be as high as 90% by tweaking the dose, but the overall results show the vaccine’s efficacy is slightly lower than other leading candidates.

Both PfizerBioNTech and Moderna reported preliminary results last week showing that their respective Covid vaccines were around 95% effective.

However, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has previously said a vaccine that is 50% or 60% effective against the virus would be acceptable.

It is hoped a Covid vaccine could help to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 1.3 million lives worldwide.

Huge challenges remain before a vaccine can be rolled out. The global battle to secure prospective supplies has raised concerns about equitable access, while questions remain over the logistics of mass production, distribution, and cost.

Logistics

Equity analysts at Jefferies said it was “challenging” to compare the efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine with those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, citing key differences in how the trials have been conducted.

The analysts highlighted weekly swabbing to detect Covid-19 among participants involved in AstraZeneca’s trials — not just confirmation of suspected cases by symptoms as in U.S. trials. They also stressed that a meningococcal vaccine was used for comparison, not placebo.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was assessed over two dosing regimens. One showed an effectiveness of 90% when trial participants received a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month later.

The other showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart.

No hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants receiving the vaccine.

A motorcyclist wears a protective mask while sitting at the side of the road at the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad, India, on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government will ensure that all 1.3 billion people nationwide will have access to a Covid-19 vaccine as soon it is ready.

Sumit Dayal | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Jefferies analysts said that when it comes to storage, affordability and distribution, AstraZeneca’s vaccine appears to have an advantage.

The British pharmaceutical giant has said its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (36-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months and administered within existing health-care settings. It has also pledged to distribute the vaccine at no profit “for the duration of the pandemic.”

The Financial Times has previously reported the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which requires two doses, is priced at approximately $3 to $4 — significantly lower than the prices reported for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

In comparison, Moderna has said its vaccine candidate remains stable at the temperature of a standard home refrigerator for up to 30 days. It can also be stored for up to six months at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

In August, the U.S. biotechnology firm said it was charging $32 to $37 per dose for its vaccine for some customers.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and requires special storage equipment and transportation. This could make it difficult for some countries to distribute.

Pfizer is reportedly charging $20 per dose for its vaccine.

‘Big beneficiaries’

Strategists at Deutsche Bank described the news from AstraZeneca on Monday as a “big deal,” saying a string of encouraging vaccine developments in recent weeks constituted “an unprecedented victory for science.”

They suggested that emerging markets, most notably Brazil, Mexico, India and Indonesia, were likely to be the “big beneficiaries” of the AstaZeneca vaccine. That’s because “the cheaper cost of production and distribution of AstraZeneca is especially relevant for lower and middle-income countries,” they said.

AstraZeneca has said it is making “rapid progress” in terms of manufacturing, with a capacity to produce up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine next year.

The U.S. and India have agreed to procure 500 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, according to data compiled by researchers at Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Centre.

The EU has reached a deal to buy 400 million, and the COVAX facility, a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, has ordered 300 million.

The U.K., Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, and Latin America excluding Brazil have each confirmed orders of at least 100 million doses.


Source link

Continue Reading

Breaking News

Shares