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Where’s the Real Harm from Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple?

June 18, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

If you use Facebook, Amazon, Google or an Apple iPhone, then
Congress and federal agencies fear you could be a victim of
anticompetitive business behavior. The House Judiciary Committee
has announced a “top-to-bottom review of the market power held by giant tech
.” The
Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission
are divvying these companies up for their own investigations.

These inquiries will generate a host of claims and
counter-claims about supposed economic harms, or potential for
them, from these firms. But given current debates, politicians and
regulators risk making two huge mistakes in their analysis:
mis-defining the markets these huge firms operate in, and
overhauling policy based on highly speculative predictions about
the future.

Behind Microsoft, the four major tech firms are the biggest U.S.
companies by market capitalization. They operate across a range of
sectors, and most people interact with at least one of them on a
near-daily basis. As a result, they occupy “psychological
monopoly” status in our public discourse. So synonymous are
they with their primary industries — social networks, online
retail, search engines and phones — that it’s hard for
people to imagine meaningful competition to them.

Sloppy economic thinking
is behind the push for antitrust action.

But a first step in assessing whether the firms are actually
engaging anticompetitively is to define the contours of their
markets. This is surprisingly difficult. Is Google
GOOG, +0.11%
GOOGL, +0.02% competing
in the market for advertising revenue (given advertisers are its
paying customers), digital advertising revenue, or in search

Should Facebook FB, +0.20% be thought of
as an advertising space seller or a social network? Might we, as
Facebook’s Nick Clegg suggests, consider it
as competing in sub-markets, such as messaging, photo sharing,
contact storage and more? Is Amazon AMZN, +0.01% a retailer
in individual product lines, a digital retailer, or a marketplace
platform? Or all three?

And is Apple AAPL, +0.08% primarily
run as a phone company, or a platform for app producers?

How one answers these questions determines how
“dominant” the companies seem. Even then, the size of a
company tells us little about consumer welfare. Network effects
(the value of a service growing with the number of users),
economies of scale and extensive user data can create markets where
consumers actually benefit from one firm dominating for a time,
albeit with new technologies and firms offering competition over
longer periods.

Absent strong evidence these firms currently harm consumers,
proponents of breaking up or regulating them instead claim these
economic phenomena might create barriers to entry that give these
firms damaging monopoly power in future. In her …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Last of Thai soccer team rescued from cave

June 18, 2019 in History

By Editors

In a search and rescue scramble that gripped the world’s attention for more than two weeks, the last of 12 Thai youth soccer players and their coach are safely rescued and transported to a local hospital on this day in 2018.

On June 23, 2018, Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, and his players, who ranged in age from 11-16, set out to explore the Tham Luang cave network in what was intended to be a fun, hour-long, after-practice adventure when they were trapped underground as monsoon rains flooded the cave’s entrance.

A search for the Wild Boars teammates and their coach took nine days, when two elite British divers located the group on July 2, 2018, approximately 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance. They were alive but malnourished, exhausted and running out of oxygen, and the dangerous, tight and twisting passageways, with strong currents, made getting the team out a logistical nightmare.

After efforts to drain the cave, considerations of waiting it out for monsoon season to end in four months and teaching the team to swim and scuba dive, one thing became certain: They would have to go underwater in scuba gear to escape.

On July 8, the first four boys were led out of the cave by an international team of cave diving experts including Thai Navy SEALS, attached to the divers with ropes and harnesses. On July 9, four more boys are rescued and on July 10, the remaining four boys and coach are rescued after spending 17 days in the cave. The boys were sedated with the drug ketamine during the daring rescue and wore wet suits and full face masks to provide oxygen. All were all released from the hospital one week later.

The event resulted in one fatality: A volunteer diver and former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, 38, died July 6, when he ran out of oxygen underwater while attempting to deliver oxygen tanks to the boys.

…read more


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The 8 Most Memorable Performances at Woodstock

June 18, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

Woodstock 1969 was plagued by stormy weather and technical problems, but the music festival produced a string of musical performances that still resonate a half-century later.

From July 15-18, 1969, something remarkable happened on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Upstate New York. Billed as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” the festival known as Woodstock perfectly captured the late-1960s zeitgeist as hippie “flower power” morphed into the anti-war movement, all to a soundtrack of politically charged folk music and psychedelic rock.

READ MORE: Woodstock, the Legendary Music Festival, Was Also a Miserable Mud Pit

Although plagued by stormy summer weather, technical problems and no-show bands, the festival still managed to produce a string of iconic musical performances that resonate a half-century later.

‘Freedom’ by Richie Havens

Richie Havens performing onstage at the Woodstock, August 15, 1969.

Relatively unknown folk rocker Richie Havens wasn’t supposed to be the first act to play Woodstock, but when four other groups became snarled in the festival’s legendary traffic, the festival promoters convinced Havens and his band to take the stage hours after the concert was scheduled to begin on Friday afternoon.

Havens ended up performing a three-hour set, literally playing every song he knew while Woodstock staff finished built the stage around him. After multiple encores, a sweat-soaked Havens came out to play one more song without any idea what it was going to be.

“When you see me in [the Woodstock movie] tuning my guitar and strumming, I was actually trying to figure out what else I could possibly play!” wrote Havens in 2009. “I looked out at all of those faces in front of me and the word ‘freedom’ came to mind.”

The high-energy, fully improvised song known as “Freedom / Motherless Child” energized the antsy crowd and set the tone for the rest of the festival.

‘Soul Sacrifice’ by Santana

Bassist David Brown (left) performs with the other members of Santana, including bandleader Carlos Santana (with guitar on right) and percussionist Michael Carabello (right), at Woodstock, August 16, 1969.

Guitar genius Carlos Santana and his band were another group of newcomers who had just released their first album before taking the Woodstock stage on Saturday afternoon. Their electric, Latin-infused Woodstock performance, driven by 20-year-old drummer Michael Shrieve, put them on the rock n’ roll map.

“I don’t remember if I had heard of Santana before Woodstock, but I thought …read more


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New Attacker Identified in Brutal Beating Death of Minister During Civil Rights Era

June 18, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

When Boston minister James Reeb went to Selma, Alabama in March 1965, his goal was to stand in solidarity with Civil Rights Movement activists who had withstood violence and discrimination in their attempts to ensure voting rights and end Jim Crow segregation. He never got the chance. Hours after his arrival in Selma, the white Unitarian Universalist minister was brutally beaten by a group of men bearing clubs. Two days later, he died.

Reverend James Reeb.

But though three men were tried for his killing, all three were acquitted, and the murder remains officially unsolved 54 years later.

But it’s no longer a cold case. An investigation by NPR journalists has uncovered the identity of a fourth attacker—a figure never put on trial for his involvement in Reeb’s death. The man, Bill Portwood, confirmed his participation in the murder to NPR.

Although they were known to the community, during the unsuccessful criminal trial Reeb’s assailants were protected by fellow segregationists, including an eyewitness who lied on the stand. Portwood’s role was not revealed during the trial.

Reeb had long fought for racial justice. After Bloody Sunday, during which state troopers and others attacked peaceful protesters, he was one of many ministers who traveled to Selma in solidarity with Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of demonstrators. Photos of the violence in Selma, and reports of Reeb’s killing, shocked the nation and spurred passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

After the brutal attack, Reeb did not receive medical care in Selma. His companions believed the city’s all-white hospital would refuse to treat him, since he had been part of a Civil Rights demonstration. The local black hospital referred Reeb to a neurosurgeon in Birmingham, 100 miles away. The ambulance that rushed him to Birmingham was delayed by county deputies.

When he died from his injuries on March 11, 1965, Reeb was eulogized by Martin Luther King, Jr. Four days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson mentioned him in a speech before he delivered the Voting Rights Act to Congress. But Reeb’s killers went free after an all-white jury acquitted them. Though the FBI reopened the case in 2008, it closed it again due to lapsed statutes of limitation and the death of all previously known involved parties.

Voting Rights Act of 1965 (TV-PG; 1:27)

Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace, …read more


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Thai soccer team becomes trapped in cave

June 18, 2019 in History

By Editors

It started as a fun after-practice excursion. On this day in 2018, Ekkapol Chantawong, a 25-year-old Thai youth soccer coach, takes his team, the Wild Boars, to explore a cave he’d visited before, intending to stay just about an hour. But when monsoon rains hit while they’re underground and the cave’s entrance floods, the coach and his 12 players, ages 11-16, become trapped. The team would remain stuck underground for more than two weeks, in what became a global media sensation.

The adventure in the large Tham Luang cave network was to be a quick one. The team brought only a rope, flashlight and some batteries—no extra water or food.

“When we went in and got stuck in the cave, at that moment, we saw water. It’s full of water,” the coach later told ABC News. “I then volunteered to dive to find out if I could go through or not. If I could go through then everybody is saved. So, we used the rope that we brought with us.”

Unable to escape, the boys pulled their coach back in and weeks passed before they were discovered and reached by rescuers. Starving and quickly running out of oxygen, the team survived by drinking fresh water that dripped from a cave stalactite and repeated the mantra “su su”—Thai for “keep fighting”—to remain calm.

The boys’ search and rescue stole the global spotlight, as an international group of cave diving experts, led by the Thai Navy Seals, raced to evacuate them. British divers discovered the group about 2.5 miles inside the cave on July 2, 2018. In an extremely dangerous effort, all the boys and the coach were rescued between July 8-10. A volunteer diver and former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, died July 6, when he ran out of oxygen underwater while attempting to deliver oxygen tanks to the boys.

…read more


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Hong Kong Launches Massive Resistance against China

June 18, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

After a week of massive protests in the streets of Hong Kong,
chief executive Carrie Lam has suspended action on a controversial
bill that would extradite Hongkongers to mainland China. But this
is clearly not enough for those rallying in the streets—after
a long fall, Hong Kong-Chinese relations are broken, and it’s
unclear whether they can ever be put back together again.

When the People’s Republic of China (PRC) regained
sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, Chinese officials
assured nervous residents that they would enjoy extensive
self-rule. Hong Kong was legally designated as a “Special
Administrative Region” of the PRC to emphasize its unique
autonomy. Beijing would be fully in charge of decisions pertaining
to foreign policy and national security, but on most other matters,
the people of Hong Kong would run their own affairs.

Unfortunately, the Chinese government has slowly but inexorably
eroded Hong Kong’s promised autonomy. Early on, Beijing
rebuffed efforts to implement democratic
reforms to replace the unelected imperial structure inherited from
the British. Only 50 percent of Hong Kong’s legislature is
directly elected; the remainder, along with the powerful post of
chief executive, are chosen by the Election Committee—a body
that Beijing appointees dominate.

By attempting to impose
its will, Beijing has now shown Taiwan, too, what’s in store. Has
it finally gone too far?

China’s jurisdiction has also gradually expanded over an
array of political, economic, and judicial matters. A growing
number of candidates for elective seats in the legislature have
been disqualified on charges of “disloyalty” for
declining to take an oath affirming the
PRC’s sovereignty over Hong Kong. Angry dissidents have
protested such encroachments, sometimes in noisy demonstrations,
but withlittle success.

Beijing’s power play escalated again in recent weeks, and
this time the pushback from the people of Hong Kong was more
emphatic and intense. Exceptionally large demonstrations (including
two in mid-June) took place, despite protesters being met with
tear gas and rubber bullets. The catalyst was
the proposed extradition law that chief executive Lam initially
tried to push through on Beijing’s orders. That measure would
give the Chinese regime significant leverage over Hong Kong’s
ostensibly independent judicial system. It would enable Beijing to
“request” that Hong Kong authorities transfer certain
types of criminal suspects to the PRC for trial.

The menace behind such a change is evident. Hong Kong-based
critics of China’s government would be especially vulnerable.
Given the crackdown on human rightsadvocates and even respected economic reformers at home that
President Xi Jinping has orchestrated, Hong Kong would no longer be
a reliable haven for dissenters. At best, the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Congress Is Overlooking Yet Another Crisis in Our Legal Immigration System

June 18, 2019 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

With so many immigrants crossing the border illegally, Congress
is overlooking another growing crisis in America’s legal
immigration system. The central finding of
a new study
this week shows that legal immigrants are waiting
longer than ever before for the chance to apply for green cards. If
Congress wants immigrants to follow legal pathways, it should start
by fixing the ones that already exist.

These waits were not caused by bureaucratic delays in processing
applications and petitions, though such delays have worsened.
Rather, the increasing delay is a result of the arbitrary annual
limits on green cards that Congress last created in 1990 —
226,000 for close relatives of citizens and legal permanent
residents, and 140,000 for workers and investors (as well as their
spouses and minor children).

Even as the U.S. population has grown by a third and the economy
has doubled in size, these limits have remained static. If the
numbers run out during the year, immigrants must wait. This
disconnect between a dynamic society and static immigration limits
forces legal immigrants to wait longer and longer for the chance to
apply for their green cards, as legal permanent residence is

Before it demands harsher
treatment of illegal immigrants, Congress should first consider how
it is treating those trying to come the legal way. It can and
should do better.

In the three decades since the last reform, the average time
that it took a legal immigrant to get to the front of the lines
doubled from two years and 10 months to five years and
eight months, according to a
new analysis
from the Cato Institute. The average disguises
huge variation in the wait times because each line moves at
different speeds. More than 100,000 legal immigrants (28 percent of
the quotas) waited at least a decade — in some cases, two
decades — to apply for a green card.

Contrast that with 1991, when the current quotas went into
effect: Just 3 percent waited a decade or more. In fact, back then,
nearly a third had no wait at all because of the quotas. By 2018,
the share with no wait had fallen to just 2 percent.

But here’s the thing: It’s about to get much worse for legal
immigrants. The waits have caused a massive backlog of nearly 5
million immigrants waiting behind those who applied for their green
cards last year. In some categories, that means that new applicants
will face astronomical waits of a half century or more if everyone
sticks it out.

For example, it would take about a century to process
all married adult children of …read more

Source: OP-EDS