Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

April 24 2014 9:27 PM

With Billions in Potential Damages Looming, Apple and Google Settle Tech Worker’s Antitrust Suit

Four of the tech world’s biggest companies—Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel—agreed to a settlement in a lawsuit filed by tech workers accusing the companies of colluding to keep salaries in check. The settlement, released in a court filing on Thursday, agreed to pay out $324 million, according to Bloomberg. The employees of the companies in the suit allege that the tech giants negotiated a “no poaching” agreement designed to keep them from hiring away each other’s employees and escalating salaries. The trial was set to start in May on behalf of 64,000 employees.

The case attracted attention because of the potential for significant damages to be awarded, if the employees could prove their case. Even before the trial was to begin, the companies conceded “entering into some no-hire agreements but disputed the allegation that they had conspired to drive down wages,” Reuters reports. “If the Silicon Valley-based technology firms hadn’t settled, they would have faced a trial in federal court in San Jose, California, with a demand for as much as $3 billion in damages,” according to Bloomberg. “Under federal antitrust law, damages won at trial could be tripled.”


The potential for billions makes the settlement for a fraction of that seem paltry by comparison. Or, as the New York Times describes it, “the workers of Silicon Valley have won an important victory over their bosses. What they did not win is a lot of money.” At the heart of the tech workers case, Reuters reports, was “a steady disclosure of emails in which Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and some of their Silicon Valley rivals hatched plans to avoid poaching each other's prized engineers.”

Here’s more on the email trail from Reuters:

In one email exchange after a Google recruiter solicited an Apple employee, Schmidt told Jobs that the recruiter would be fired, court documents show. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt's note to a top Apple human resources executive with a smiley face. Another exchange shows Google's human resources director asking Schmidt about sharing its no-cold call agreements with competitors. Schmidt, now the company's executive chairman, advised discretion. "Schmidt responded that he preferred it be shared 'verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?'" he said, according to a court filing. The HR director agreed.

“We think it’s an excellent result and we look forward to presenting it,” Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg. 

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April 24 2014 8:25 PM

Kidnapped American Journalist Released By Ukrainian Separatists

Separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine released Vice journalist Simon Ostrovsky on Thursday. Ostrovsky, an American video journalist, was taken prisoner three days ago while working on report for the news organization. Vice News issued a statement saying it was “delighted to confirm that our colleague and friend Simon Ostrovsky has been safely released and is in good health.”

Orstrovsky also Tweeted his release on Thursday:


Here’s more on his capture, and release, from the New York Times:

Jean-François Bélanger, a correspondent for Canada’s state broadcaster, CBC, reported on Twitter that Mr. Ostrovsky left Slovyansk a short time later in his company. The Vice News correspondent, Mr. Bélanger said, had been beaten and blindfolded when he was seized late Monday but later was treated well… Shortly after Mr. Ostrovsky was released, Vice News published a video report filmed just before his detention in which he subjected Vyachislav Ponomaryov, a separatist who has appointed himself the mayor of Slovyansk, to skeptical questioning. Mr. Ostrovsky, a former BBC and Al Jazeera reporter, appeared to unsettle Mr. Ponomaryov by not accepting at face value his claim that a gun battle near the town over the weekend was an attack by right-wing ultranationalists from Kiev. Following his release, Mr. Ostrovsky told Agence France-Presse that the separatists had specifically sought him out.

April 24 2014 7:08 PM

Vladimir Putin Says the CIA Created the Internet and Wants an Internet of His Own

As a former-KGB man himself, Vladimir Putin knows a thing or two about the spy game. The Russian president’s prowess on the Internet isn’t quite as clear. But, apparently, from what he does know about both he’s come up with a clear-headed—if previously unheard of—assessment of the origins of the Internet. The CIA started it.

Putin dropped his creationist Internet theory at a media forum on Thursday, the Associated Press reports, saying “the Internet originally was a ‘CIA project’ and ‘is still developing as such.’” While Putin’s origin of the Internet theory appears as revisionist as it is far-fetched, perhaps he gets the Guardian delivered to the Kremlin.


What is more troubling about Putin’s online belief system is this (from the AP):

To resist that influence, Putin said, Russia needs to "fight for its interests" online… The Kremlin has been anxious to exert greater control over the Internet, which opposition activists - barred from national television - have used to promote their ideas and organize protests. Russia's parliament this week passed a law requiring social media websites to keep their servers in Russia and save all information about their users for at least half a year. Also, businessmen close to Putin now control Russia's leading social media network, VKontakte.

April 24 2014 6:13 PM

10-Year-Old Girl Whose Dad is Out of Work Approaches Michelle Obama With His Résumé

10-year-old Charlotte Bell was a guest at a White House Q&A with Michelle Obama today. When it was her turn to talk she said her father had been out of work for three years and brought the First Lady his résumé.

Gahhhhh, that is just heartbreaking.

April 24 2014 5:08 PM

Shamus Beaglehole Wins 2014 Name of the Year Contest

Congratulations to Shamus Beaglehole, an English soccer player who has won decisive victory in the 2014 Name of the Year contest. Shamus' victory was announced last week, but somehow we were covering other stuff at the time, which was a terrible oversight. See the Name of the Year site for information on runners-up such as Eve Gruntfest and Alkapone Cruz-Balles.

April 24 2014 12:57 PM

Cliven Bundy's Racist Comments Were Caught on Video

Here, apparently via Media Matters:

April 24 2014 12:47 PM

The Yankees Are More Popular Than the Mets in Every Single New York Zip Code


New York Times

It's all gray because every single zip code had more Yankees fans than Mets fans. Including the ones immediately surrounding the Mets' stadium. Though there is the possibility that Mets fans simply don't sign up for Facebook at the same rate as Yankee fans (because the debilitating long-term sadness makes it unbearably difficult to interact, even online, with other humans).

April 24 2014 11:23 AM

White Supremacist Suspect in Kansas Mass Shooting Was Once Arrested "Mid-Act" with Black Male Prostitute

ABC has a detailed story today on the background of Frazier Glenn Miller, the white supremacist arrested for the shooting death of three people near a Jewish community center and retirement home in Kansas. In the 1980s Miller was briefly a fugitive after his white supremacist pseudo-military group announced a "war" on minorities. He was caught and quickly became a witness against his associates. Authorities then began looking into his past:

In the course of their investigation, authorities also learned the stunning details of Miller’s arrest a year earlier. Raleigh police officers had caught Miller in  the back seat of a vehicle, in mid-act with a black male prostitute masquerading as a woman.
That account is buttressed by a 2013 phone conversation with Miller recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich. During the call, Beirich asks him about being arrested at one point in the company of a “black transvestite.” Miller bragged that he had a “violent history of going around picking up ni**ers and beating the hell out of ‘em, particularly ni**er f**gots.” When he was arrested with the transvestite, he claimed he was planning to “whip his ass.”

April 24 2014 10:05 AM

FDA Wants to Ban E-Cigarette Sales to Minors

The FDA has proposed what would be the first regulations of the growing e-cigarette industry, including a ban on sales of the devices to minors. Reuters:

In the short term, the rule would prohibit companies from distributing free e-cigarette samples, forbid vending machine sales except in adult-only venues and prohibit sales to minors. Companies would be required to warn that nicotine is addictive, but no other health warnings would be required...The companies would not be allowed to make health claims in any advertising.

The agency did not propose any limitations on online sales, a seeming loophole for potential buyers under 18. The proposal is now open to a public-comment period; the agency would like to enact the rules within a year.

There is little data on the health effects of e-cigarettes, which create nicotine vapor rather than burning tobacco, but the New York Times reported last week that tests in a National Institutes of Health-funded study found that cells exposed to e-cigarette vapor "exhibited changes associated with cancer" in a laboratory setting.

April 23 2014 9:00 PM

Georgia Gov. Signs “Guns Everywhere” Bill Allowing Guns in Bars, Schools, and Churches

The problem in Georgia isn’t that you can’t own a gun. The problem, you see, is that once you do own a gun you can’t take it absolutely everywhere you want to. But what to do about those pesky restrictions on where you can, and cannot, pack heat? Problem solved. On Wednesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill that doesn’t cramp gun owners’ gun-toting style so much by vastly expanding where firearms can be legally carried in the state.

House Bill 60, dubbed by critics as the “guns everywhere” bill, now allows Georgians to legally carry firearms perhaps not everywhere, but pretty close. Imagine for a second where would be the worst possible places to add guns to the mix? If you answered: bars, schools, churches, and government buildings, you could be a politician in Georgia.


Here’s more on the bill from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The bill, which takes effect July 1, also legalizes the use of silencers for hunting, clears the way for school staffers to carry guns in school zones and lets leaders of religious congregations choose whether to allow licensed gun holders inside. And it allows permitted gun owners to carry their weapons in government buildings – including parts of courthouses – where there is no security at the entrance.

“People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” Deal told the AJC. “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.” And now, at church, in the classroom and sitting at a bar, it certainly will.

In an interview with the AJC this week Deal took care to remind voters that this bill was forged with the spirit of compromise and restraint and voters “shouldn’t forget what got left out of the bill.” “Among the controversial proposals that didn’t survive were the ‘campus carry” provision, which would have legalized the carrying of guns on [college] campus, and changes that would have required houses of worship to allow guns unless leaders ban them. (Instead, religious leaders can ‘opt-in to allow guns into their congregations),” the AJC writes. Lest you thought this was a partisan problem, not a Georgia problem, according to the AJC, state Sen. Jason Carter, the democratic nominee in the governor’s race, also voted for the bill.