Google's activities under scrutiny by US, Europe regulators
Washington (AP) — Google, the tech giant
known universally for its search engine, also has fingers in a number of
other pies, like online advertising, email messaging and video. That
gives U.S. antitrust enforcers, who have reportedly evinced a new
interest in pursuing competition charges against Google, lots to look
Governments around the world are becoming
increasingly unnerved by the power amassed by major technology companies
— with the dominance of Google in search, Facebook in social networking
and Amazon in e-commerce raising the sharpest concerns. In the most
dramatic scenario, a case might be made for breaking the companies into
The U.S. Justice Department is readying an
investigation of Google's business practices in search and other areas,
and whether they violate antitrust law, according to news reports.
Neither the company nor the Justice Department will confirm or deny that
a probe has been launched. The Federal Trade Commission, which shares
competition oversight with Justice, made an antitrust investigation of
Google but closed it in 2013 without taking action.
The company made changes voluntarily after the FTC
probe, including letting advertisers use information from their Google
ad campaigns to create campaigns with rivals. But an FTC staff report
released years later showed that the agency staff had urged the
presidentially-appointed commissioners to bring a lawsuit against
Google. That never happened.
It isn't clear what specific areas of Google's
business the Justice Department might be probing. But here are some
possible areas U.S. antitrust cops might poke into.
Google commands the lead in digital ad revenue by a
wide margin, controlling 31.1% of global digital ad dollars, according
to eMarketer's 2019 estimates. Facebook is a distant second with 20.2%.
European antitrust regulators slapped Google in
March with a $1.7 billion fine for freezing out rivals in the online
advertising business — the regulators' third big fine against the
company in less than two years.
Still, the latest penalty isn't likely to have much
effect on Google's business. It applies to a narrow portion of Google's
ad business in which Google sells ads next to Google search results on
third-party websites. It involves practices the company says it already
ended, and the amount is just a fraction of the $31 billion in profit
that its parent, conglomerate Alphabet Inc., made last year.
Google's search engine handles two out of every
three queries in the U.S. European regulators have found that Google
manipulated its search engine to gain an unfair advantage over other
online shopping sites in the lucrative e-commerce market, fining the
company $2.8 billion. Google disputes those findings and is still
appealing the 2017 decision.
The FTC staff report released after the agency's
investigation showed that the staff legal recommendations rejected by
the commissioners involved allegations of Google tinkering with its
search results in a way that stifled competition.
Lawmakers from both parties appear determined to
examine whether Google rigs its search results to also promote its own
Another huge antitrust fine from the European
overseers, $5 billion, came against Google in July 2018 for a finding
that it abused the dominance of its Android operating system by forcing
handset and tablet makers to install Google apps, reducing consumer
The company appealed the ruling and also made
changes to avoid additional fines. It started this spring giving
European Union smartphone users a choice of browsers and search apps on
Android. Following an Android update, users will be shown two new
screens giving them the new options.
Android users who open the Google Play store after
the update will be given the option to install as many as five search
apps and five browsers. Apps are included based on their popularity and
shown in random order.
Report: NASA's major projects busting budgets, schedules
artist's rendering provided by Northrop Grumman via NASA shows the James
Webb Space Telescope. (Northrop Grumman/NASA via AP)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) —
NASA's major projects are busting budgets and schedules like never
before, according to a congressional watchdog agency.
The U.S. Government Accountability
Office reported Thursday that NASA's major projects are more than 27
percent over baseline costs and the average launch delay is 13 months.
That's the largest schedule delay since the GAO began assessing NASA's
major projects 10 years ago.
The still-in-development James Webb
Space Telescope is the major offender. The projected launch date for
this advanced successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is now 2021, with
an estimated $9.6 billion price tag, the GAO noted. Its original target
launch date was 2007, with initial cost estimates as low as $1 billion.
NASA's yet-to-fly mega rocket, the
Space Launch System, also faces big cost overruns because of production
challenges and, likely, even more launch delays.
On the bright side, the Parker
Solar Probe launched last summer and looping ever closer around the sun
came in millions under budget and was also on time.
The GAO defines a major project as
having at least $250 million in lifetime costs. Altogether, NASA plans
to invest $63 billion on the 24 major projects listed in the GAO's
The partial government shutdown,
which stretched from December to January, was not factored into the
NASA's first-of-kind tests look to manage drones in cities
May 21, 2019 photo, two drones fly above Lake Street in downtown Reno,
Nev. as part of a NASA simulation to test emerging technology that
someday will be used to manage travel of hundreds of thousands of
commercial, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages. It
marked the first time such tests have been conducted in an urban
setting. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)
Reno, Nev. (AP) — NASA has
launched the final stage of a four-year effort to develop a national
traffic management system for drones, testing them in cities for the
first time beyond the operator's line of sight as businesses look in the
future to unleash the unmanned devices in droves above busy streets and
Multiple drones took to the air at
the same time above downtown Reno this week in a series of simulations
testing emerging technology that someday will be used to manage hundreds
of thousands of small unmanned commercial aircraft delivering packages,
pizzas and medical supplies.
"This activity is the latest and
most technical challenge we have done with unmanned aerial systems,"
said David Korsmeyer, associate director of research and technology at
NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
An autonomous drone took off
Tuesday from the rooftop of a five-story casino parking garage and
landed on the roof of another out of view across the street. It hovered
as onboard sensors adjusted for gusty winds before returning close to
the center of the launch pad.
Equipped with GPS, others flew at
each other no higher than city streetlights but were able to avoid
colliding through onboard tracking systems connected to NASA's computers
on the ground.
Similar tests have been conducted
in remote and rural areas. The Federal Aviation Administration has
authorized individual test flights in cities before but never for
multiple drones or outside the sight of the operator.
The new round of tests continuing
this summer in Reno and Corpus Christi, Texas, marks the first time
simulations have combined all those scenarios, said Chris Walach,
executive director of the Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems, which
is running the Reno tests of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
"When we began this project four
years ago, many of us wouldn't have thought we'd be standing here today
flying UAVs with advanced drone systems off high-rise buildings," he
The team adopted a "crawl, walk,
run" philosophy when it initiated tests in 2015, culminating with this
fourth round of simulations, said Ron Johnson, project manager for
unmanned aircraft systems traffic management at NASA's Ames Research
"We are definitely in the 'run'
phase of this development here in Reno," he said.
The results will be shared with the
FAA. The agency outlined proposed rules in January that would ease
restrictions on flying drones over crowds but said it won't take final
action until it finishes another regulation on identifying drones as
they're flying — something industry analysts say could be years away.
Critics assert that the FAA has
stymied the commercial use of drones by applying the same rigid safety
standard it uses for airlines.
"There can be a lot of Silicon
Valley mentality where people don't want to wait. So, we're trying to
strike a balance between unleashing entrepreneurship and ensuring we're
doing it safely while trying to accelerate acceptance of drones in
public," Johnson said.
Amazon and FedEx are among the
companies that hope to send consumer products by drone by 2020. Drone
delivery company Flirtey began testing delivery of defibrillators for
cardiac arrest patients last year in Reno under FAA oversight.
Johnson said cities present the
biggest challenges because of limited, small landing areas among tall
buildings that create navigation and communication problems.
He said it became apparent early on
that the travel management plans for drones would have to be completely
automated because FAA air traffic controllers can't handle the enormous
The system is being tested with the
help of 36 private partners, including drone manufacturers, operators,
software developers and other third-party service providers, Johnson
The system uses software on the
ground that communicates flight plans and positions to other software
systems. The drones are equipped with programs for landing, avoiding
crashes, surveillance, detection and identification, optical cameras and
systems similar to radar that work with lasers.
Huy Tran, director of aeronautics
at NASA's Ames Research Center, said her supervisors at NASA
headquarters were surprised to hear they had be testing drones in Reno.
"They said, 'Are you crazy?'" she
said. "We hope (the test in) Reno shows drones can be flown and land
Amazon’s Bezos says he’ll
send a spaceship to the moon
Bezos speaks in front of a model of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander,
Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Washington (AP) —
Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos says he’s going to send a spaceship to the
moon, joining a resurgence of lunar interest half a century after people
first set foot there.
Bezos said his space company Blue
Origin will land a robotic ship the size of a small house, capable of
carrying four rovers and using a newly designed rocket engine and souped-up
rockets. It would be followed by a version that could bring people to
the moon along the same timeframe as NASA’s proposed 2024 return.
Bezos, who was dwarfed by his
mock-up of the Blue Moon vehicle at his May 9 presentation, said, “This
is an incredible vehicle and it’s going to the moon.”
He added: “It’s time to go back to
the moon. This time to stay.”
The announcement for the usually
secretive space company came with all the glitz of an Apple product
launch in a darkened convention ballroom bedazzled with shimmering stars
on its walls. Astronauts and other space luminaries sat in the audience
under blue-tinted lighting before Bezos unveiled the boxy ship with four
long and spindly landing legs.
Bezos, who also owns The
Washington Post, walked off the stage without providing details,
including launch dates, customers and the plan for humans on his
rockets. He spent more time talking about his dream of future
generations living on orbiting space station colonies than on concrete
details about Blue Origin missions.
Blue Origin officials gave
conflicting answers to questions about when the company would land on
the moon with and without people. Blue Origin Vice President Clay Mowry
said 2024 was not a concrete goal for a mission with people and said it
was more up to NASA as a potential customer.
Former U.S. Rep. Robert Walker, a
private space consultant who is working with Blue Origin, said it plans
for a 2023 launch without people.
Blue Origin in 2017 revealed plans
to send an unmanned, reusable rocket, capable of carrying 10,000 pounds
(4,500 kilograms) of payload, to the moon. The company had a successful
launch earlier this month, reusing one of its New Shepard rockets, which
barely goes to the edge of space, for a fifth time.
The new moon race has a lower
profile than the one in the 1960s. It involves private companies, new
countries and a NASA return mission to place astronauts back on the
lunar surface by 2024.
While a $30 million prize for
private companies to send robotic probes to the moon went unclaimed last
year, one of the competitors, from an Israeli private nonprofit, crashed
last month as it tried to land.
China has landed a rover on the
moon’s far side. SpaceX last year announced plans to send a Japanese
businessman around the moon in 2023. And the Israeli nonprofit said it
will give it a second shot.
The first successful moon landing
was by the Soviet Union in 1966 with Luna 9, followed by the U.S. four
months later. NASA put the first — and only — people on the moon in the
Apollo program, starting with Apollo 11 in July 1969.
“The next leap in space will be
fueled by commercial companies like Blue Origin and commercial
innovation,” said former Obama White House space adviser Phil Larson,
now an assistant dean of engineering at the University of Colorado.
Space companies have in the past
made big announcements with goals that never came true.
Former NASA deputy administrator
Dava Newman, an MIT professor working as a customer of Blue Origin, said
this time it’s different. The new engine is the reason, she said, “It’s
SpaceX launches 60 little satellites, with many more to come
9 SpaceX rocket with a payload of 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink
broadband network lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Thursday, May 23, 2019. A 149 second
time exposure of the launch Thursday night is viewed from the end of
Minutemen Causeway in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today
Cape Canaveral, Fla.
(AP) — SpaceX has launched 60 little satellites,
the first of thousands that founder Elon Musk plans to put in orbit for
global internet coverage.
The recycled Falcon
rocket blasted off late Thursday night, May 23. The first-stage booster
landed on an ocean platform following liftoff, as the tightly packed cluster
of satellites continued upward.
Musk said all 60
flat-panel satellites were deployed and online a few hundred miles above
Earth. Each weighs 500 pounds and has a single solar panel and a
krypton-powered thruster for raising and maintaining altitude. The
satellites have the capability of automatically dodging sizable pieces of
constellation — named Starlink — will grow in the next few years, Musk said.
Twelve launches of 60
satellites each will provide reliable and affordable internet coverage
throughout the U.S., he said. Twenty-four launches will serve most of the
populated world and 30 launches the entire world. That will be 1,800
satellites in total, with more planned after that.
Musk told reporters
last week there’s “a fundamental goodness” to giving people in all corners
of the globe choices in broadband internet service. He’s especially
interested in reaching areas without coverage or where it is expensive or
Other companies have
similar plans, including Project Kuiper from Jeff Bezos’ Amazon and OneWeb.
According to Musk,
California-based SpaceX can use Starlink revenue to develop more advanced
rockets and spacecraft to achieve his ultimate goal of establishing a city
Musk, who also runs the
electric carmaker Tesla and other ventures, said Starlink is one of the
hardest engineering projects he’s encountered. The satellites include a lot
of new technology, and he warned last week that some of them might not work.
The Starlink satellites
are designed to re-enter the atmosphere after four or five years in orbit,
burning up harmlessly over the Pacific. Musk stressed there will be no
safety issues on the ground from falling chunks of debris.
The launch was delayed
twice last week, first by high wind and then for software updates. It was
the third flight for this booster.
NASA: Budget boost ‘good start’ to put astronauts on moon
November 1969 photo provided by NASA, Apollo 12 mission Commander Charles P.
“Pete” Conrad stands on the moon’s surface. He was the third man to walk on
the moon. On Tuesday, May 14, 2019, NASA’s chief says the Trump
administration’s proposed $1.6 billion budget boost is a “good start” for
putting astronauts back on the moon. (AP Photo/NASA)
Cape Canaveral, Fla.
(AP) — NASA’s chief said that the Trump
administration’s proposed $1.6 billion budget boost is a “good start” for
getting astronauts back on the moon within five years.
Bridenstine addressed employees a day after the White House introduced the
During an hourlong town
hall from NASA headquarters in Washington, Bridenstine said $1.6 billion is
enough for 2020. But more money will be needed in the years ahead to land
“the next man and the first woman” at the south pole of the moon by 2024.
NASA is once again
turning to Greek mythology for the name of the project. It’s being called
Artemis, after the twin sister of Apollo. Apollo was the name of NASA’s
moonshot program that, 50 years ago this summer, achieved the first manned
NASA landed 12 men on
the moon over six Apollo missions. For the next go-around, the space agency
wants its moonwalkers to reflect today’s more diverse astronaut corps, thus
the name of Apollo’s sister. Artemis was goddess of the hunt as well as the
“I have a daughter,
she’s 11 years old, and I want her to see herself in the same position that
our current, very diverse astronaut corps currently sees itself, having the
opportunity to go to the moon,” Bridenstine said. “In the 1960s, young
ladies didn’t have the opportunity to see themselves in that role. Today,
Bridenstine said he’s
heartened by the fact that the extra money, if approved by Congress, will
come from outside NASA, rather than being taken from the International Space
Station or other departments within the space agency.
seeks to use money from Pell Grants for college education, for NASA’s new
Bridenstine said he’s
already heard criticism of how the new spending will be “dead on arrival” in
Congress because neither NASA nor the administration worked in advance with
Congress on it. As a former congressman from Oklahoma, he said he knows how
the process works and assured the space agency’s 17,000 employees that would
not be the case.
“This is a good
out-of-the-gate first start, a very honest proposal from the administration
that keeps us all together, moving forward,” he said.
He also plugged NASA’s
ongoing Space Launch System mega-rocket and Orion spacecraft, both under
development, and a proposed outpost in the vicinity of the moon, called
A few hours later,
Bridenstine found himself before the Senate Commerce, Science and
Transportation Committee, talking up the Artemis moon plan. The space agency
envisions that the effort will involve private industry as well as other
countries. Just last week, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos introduced a mock-up of
his own planned lunar lander for his Blue Origin space company.
In March, Vice
President Mike Pence urged NASA to accelerate its moon-landing program,
moving it up from 2028 to 2024.
NASA has flip-flopped
between the moon and Mars, a victim of changing presidential
administrations. More recently, President Barack Obama targeted Mars as
astronauts’ next big destination, while President Donald Trump has favored