Technology US

FTC fines three ticket scalping companies for illegally using bots

The Federal Trade Commission issued multimillion-dollar fines against three bot-powered ticket scalping operations. The FTC says these organizations bought over 150,000 event tickets over the past four years, nabbing them with automated tools that evaded online purchasing limits. After reselling these tickets for an estimated $26.1 million, they’ve been accused of breaking a 2016 anti-bot law — the first time this law has been applied.

Regulators reached a proposed settlement with the ticket selling groups, including $31.6 million in fines. However, most of these fines were suspended because of an inability to pay. The three groups will pay a total of $3.7 million instead, and they’ll have to maintain records demonstrating their future compliance with the law. The settlement must still be approved by a judge.

The Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act bans using software to circumvent ticket purchase limits — a practice that lets resellers buy tickets in bulk and resell them at a steep markup. “Not only does this deprive loyal fans of the chance to see their favorite performers and shows, it is against the law,” said FTC consumer protection bureau director Andrew Smith in a statement.

While the complaints don’t specify which shows the scalpers were targeting, they note that the list includes many sporting events and other performances, including Elton John concerts.

Headline USA

Can you get coronavirus vaccines from different pharmaceutical companies? | The State

In some parts of the world, including some sites in the United States, there have been shortages in vaccines to combat the coronavirus, which has worried several who have already applied a first dose and who need to get the second for immunity to be effective.

So, How feasible is it to apply vaccines from different pharmaceutical companies?

Health experts have indicated that Preferably, the vaccines you apply must be from the same laboratory; This has been reaffirmed by the US health authorities, where they indicated that these are not interchangeable.

But given the situation of scarcity that is being experienced in some places, health experts from Great Britain pointed out that in case the laboratory from which you applied the first dose is not available or, you do not know what it was, theoretically, there would be no problem in applying that of another pharmacist in the second dose, but studies to support this claim are still lacking.

“If people accidentally get a different vaccine the second dose than the first dose, it is likely to work well and be well tolerated, but evidence is needed to be sure,” explained Naor Bar-Zeev, an expert on Johns Hopkins University Vaccines.


Headlines UK London

Fishing companies will receive £ 23 million from the state

They will be paid as compensation for export delays.

Three weeks after the end of the Brexit transition, British fish and seafood exporters are still unable to ship to European markets on time. The reason for this is constant delays at the border and document checks, writes ITV News.

On January 18, several representatives of fishing companies protested in Downing Street in an attempt to draw the government’s attention to the issue. London police fined 14 people, since it is forbidden to gather in groups in quarantine. However, this was enough for Boris Johnson to promise to compensate the companies for the losses, Sky News reports.

The government will allocate £ 23 million to enterprises experiencing problems with the export of goods, the Prime Minister promised in an interview with the BBC. He still believes the UK has benefited from a trade agreement with the European Union. “We already have 25% more fishing quotas than we had before Brexit. And in just five and a half years we will own all the fish in our waters. “Johnson assured.

Headlines UK

One in five companies monitors employees working remotely

Special programs track employee actions and events on his computer

After the transfer of employees to remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic, many companies thought about control over them and even began to purchase special software, writes Metro. According to a YouGov / Skillcast survey, 12% of employers are already tracking the actions of their employees, and 8% plan to start doing so soon. A total of 2 thousand companies took part in the survey.

Modern software allows you to track how much time an employee spends on reading work letters and messages, check what he is doing during a meeting, and take screenshots of the desktop. Under British law, an employer has the right to do this if he suspects his employee of violating the law and doubts his integrity.

However, Labor’s shadow minister for digital affairs, Chi Onwura, considers the law outdated. “The government must guarantee people the right to privacy in the workplace or at home.”– added Onwura. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, agrees with her: Technology should be used to improve lives, not to deprive people of their dignity

Tech News

Amazon Will Let Companies Build Voice Assistants on Alexa

Amazon is offering other companies the ability to use the building blocks of the Alexa digital assistant for their own automated versions, the latest effort to embed the company’s voice software into other devices. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will be the first to use Alexa Custom Assistant, relying on Amazon-built speech recognition and other software to power the automaker’s in-car tools, Amazon said Friday in a statement. The retail and technology giant also invited other companies to customize the underlying Alexa system with their own wake word, voice and unique capabilities.

Alexa is most closely associated with Echo smart speakers, but Amazon has been working to extend the software’s reach, and fend off rivals like Apple and Alphabet’s Google, by adding utility for tasks like home automation and the potentially lucrative and fiercely contested market for in-car software. Amazon, which lacks the massive base of captive smartphone users of its main rivals, has suggested voice assistants should be able to talk to one another. The company, like competitors, already offers for rent elements of the technology that powers its digital assistant, but Alexa Custom Assistant represents a more complete set of tools, Amazon said.

Previously, owners of some newer Fiat Chrysler models who wanted to roll their windows down or inquire about the weather at their destination had to shift between two experiences: speaking to a custom-built voice software by pressing a button on the steering wheel, or invoking Alexa by voice. The new arrangement folds all interactions into one system, integrating in-car functions with the rest of Amazon’s web of data.

The companies declined to comment on the terms of the deal. An Amazon spokeswoman said that under the new arrangement, Amazon will manage voice data for users who choose to sign in with an Amazon account, sharing with Fiat Chrysler only the intent of a user’s action. Some automakers, wary of inviting Silicon Valley to step between them and their drivers, have resisted striking deals with technology companies to power car functions and entertainment systems. Some have turned to developers like Cerence Inc. to build custom-made voice assistants.

Fiat Chrysler, which will complete its merger with French rival PSA Group next week to become Stellantis NV, has adopted a more frugal technology strategy than larger competitors in the wake of its 2009 bankruptcy. As a result, it has been more open to partnering to navigate the technological disruption of the auto industry. It was among the first automakers to strike a deal with Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet, to supply minivans for Waymo’s robotaxi fleets.

Automakers “are starting to say the capabilities are so compelling that it’s hard to say no entirely,” said Matt Arcaro, who tracks automotive technology use for researcher IDC. “The multiassistant vehicle is the goal right now, and I don’t think there is a lot of cooperation between Google and Alexa in working together.”

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Headline USA New York Politics

New York cancels Trump contracts with one of his companies that in 2020 earned him $ 17 million dollars | The State

New York cancels Trump’s contracts with one of his companies that in 2020 earned him $ 17 million

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

This Wednesday morning Bill de Blasio said in an interview for MSNBC that New York City is withdrawing all their contracts with the Trump Organization which is made up of hundreds of businesses owned by the president.

“New York City has cut all ties with the Trump Organization due to criminal activity,” de Blasio said.

The Trump Organization has contracts to run two ice skating rinks and the Central Park carousel and a golf course in the Bronx.

Those contracts could take a month or more to complete, they reported to the president’s company about $ 17 million in revenue last year, according to financial statements.

The cancellation of these contracts will affect some of the president’s oldest companies, created when Donald Trump had still been recognized as one of the top real estate developers in New York City.

“Inciting an insurrection against the United States government is clearly criminal activity,” De Blasio said. “New York City will no longer have anything to do with the Trump Organization.”

President Trump is facing the consequences for the violent attack on the Capitol last week although he denies any responsibility. Bloomberg reported that New York-based Signature Bank and Deutsche Bank, with whom Trump has done business at least since 2011, closed the president’s personal bank accounts and called for his resignation. The AP noted that the PGA canceled plans to hold the Championship in 2022 at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Related: One of the assailants he disrupted in Congress took a lectern and auctioned it on eBay for nearly $ 15,000.

Almost all social media platforms have suspended or banned the president’s accounts. Companies like Amazon, Best Buy and Disney have suspended political donations for Republicans who supported Trump’s proposal to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Congress.

You may be interested:


Headline USA New York Politics

New York City Cancels Contracts with Donald Trump Companies | The State

“The President incited a rebellion against the United States Government that killed five people and threatened derail the constitutional transfer of power. AND New York City will not associate with those unforgivable acts in any way or form, and we are taking immediate steps to terminate all contracts from Trump Organization“.

With these forceful words the Mayor Bill de Blasio described in a statement released this Wednesday, the decision of your Administration to cancel all contracts they have with Donald Trump’s companies in the Big Apple.

Specifically, the City currently has three contracts with the ‘Trump Organization’, which allow the President’s companies to operate the central park carousel, the ‘Wollman’ and ‘Lasker’ ice skating rinks, also located in Central Park, and the ‘Ferry Point Golf’, a golf course located in the Bronx.

The De Blasio Administration indicated that the next step is to officially notify the Trump Organization that the City will begin the process to cancel its agreements immediately.

“Trump’s incitement to violence on our Capitol was an abomination,” said the City’s lead attorney. James E. Johnson. The head of the Legal Department indicated that in light of last week’s attack on our Capitol and our democracy, “we have come to the conclusion that the best thing for New Yorkers is that the City begins the process of canceling these contracts and end its business ties with the Trump Organization. “

The completion process for each location is detailed in each of the City’s agreements. The carousel is currently closed and the termination will take effect 25 days after the City’s notice of termination is delivered. The agreement for the Wollman and Lasker tracks ends after 30 days of written notice. While the process to cancel the Ferry Point golf course is more detailed and is expected to take several months.


Technology US

Social media and telco companies urged to preserve evidence from Capitol attack

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is asking mobile carriers and social media platforms to preserve “content and associated metadata” that may be connected to the attack on the US Capitol. Warner said in a statement Saturday that he contacted the CEOs of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Apple, Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Signal, Telegram, and Twitter.

“The United States Capitol is now a crime scene,” Warner wrote in his letters. “The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are currently investigating the events of that day, and trying to piece together what happened and the perpetrators involved. The prospect of litigation on behalf of the victims of the mayhem also is highly likely. Messaging data to and from your subscribers that may have participated in, or assisted, those engaged in this insurrection – and associated subscriber information – are critical evidence in helping to bring these rioters to justice.”

Warner noted that many of those participating in the January 6th attack that left five people dead posted images to social media, or shared them via text and mobile messaging platforms while the riot was underway and afterward, “to celebrate their disdain for our democratic process.”

All the named companies routinely comply with court-issued preservation orders, issued during criminal investigations. But Warner’s letter is an informal request, without the legal force of a criminal preservation order, and it is unclear how the companies will respond. Court-issued preservation orders are often issued under seal so it is also possible that one of the many agencies investigating the Capitol raid has already issued such an order.

We’ve reached out to the companies to ask how and if they plan to comply with Warner’s request and will update if we hear back from them. A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to The Verge that the company was “continuing our ongoing, proactive outreach to law enforcement and have worked to quickly provide responses to valid legal requests. We are removing content, disabling accounts, and working with law enforcement to protect against direct threats to public safety.”

Warner told Politico that following Wednesday’s attack, Congress would “come back with a vengeance” against social media platforms that were unable to rein in violent content and threats on their platforms. “This is going to come back and bite ‘em,” he said.

Update January 9th 1:15PM ET: Adds comment from Facebook


Seven companies that have made the most of the pandemic

From tourism to catering to transport, the year 2020 will have hit several sectors of the economy hard.

Despite everything, some have not hesitated to adapt to circumstances, to innovate, or to start a business in a complicated context. Here are seven companies that have taken lemons to make lemonade.

A new market for distillers

From the start of the pandemic, the Fils du Roy Distillery chose to reorient its activities to manufacture hand antiseptics. The Petit-Paquetville company produced 15,000 liters in nine days before being forced to cease production at the end of March due to a shortage of raw materials and rising prices.

Other alcohol producers, Moncton’s Port-Royal Distillery, Moonshine Waterville Distillery and Gagetown Distilling and Cidery have also joined efforts to fight the novel coronavirus by producing large quantities of hand and surface sanitizer at in recent months.

At the request of the federal government, the giant Irving Oil got down to it in early April. The production line at its Saint-Jean mixing and packaging plant has been reorganized to supply disinfectant gel.

A first boutique specializing in the sale of masks

The year 2020 has been particularly difficult for some newcomers whose integration has been complicated by forced isolation and rare opportunities for socialization. Saber Boukari’s family, originally from Algeria, will have faced additional hurdles, including the loss of their home after the apartment building where they resided on Chauvin Road burned down.

It was not enough to undermine the entrepreneur’s resolve. A few weeks later, Mr. Boukari opened his mask shop called Atlancare on the same street. The place is not very spacious but houses a surprising variety of facial protections. There are masks from the most sober to the most fanciful, decorated with LED lighting or in the colors of the NHL teams. Some were designed for outdoor work at low temperatures, others were designed for athletes or veiled women. Bravo to him for not having given up!

Rapid screening tests done in New Brunswick

LuminaUltra’s management got the green light from Santé Santé in early December to sell and distribute COVID-19 tests to governments and employers across the country. The kit developed by the biotechnology company allows you to get results in less than two hours.

In April, LuminaUltra had already made a name for itself after winning a contract from the federal government to produce chemicals needed for 500,000 tests performed by Canadian public laboratories. About 15 people were then hired and the company had to expand its facilities in the capital to fill the order.

The ingenuity of Malley Industries

To be successful in business involves knowing how to adapt to a changing environment and react to new trends. The engineers at Malley Industries got it right. In May, the Dieppe-based manufacturer, specializing in the design of ambulance and van interiors, released its anti-Covid “quick shield”.

This thermoformed wall, which separates the drivers of the vehicle from the passengers, was designed in just three weeks. A quick and efficient response to an urgent need for the transport industry.

Cannabis NB turns the tide

After a difficult first few months, Cannabis NB is now posting excellent financial results. 2020 has been a very good year for the Crown corporation, it announced at the end of November that it has now been profitable for 12 consecutive months.

The price adjustment, arrival of edibles and containment have contributed to an 87% increase in sales in the second quarter of 2020. Management even expects to end the fiscal year with net profits of more than 10 million. $.

These welcome revenues now cast doubts on the Higgs government, which is still studying the possibility of entrusting the monopoly on the sale of cannabis to a private operator.

Premium coffee in Tim Hortons country

Some would have hesitated to go into business in the midst of a pandemic. Conor Conway, Matt Symes and Zach Dallaire are not among them. The co-founders of Epoch chemistry have not given up on opening their upscale coffee bar in the walls of the old fire station on St George Street in Moncton.

The pandemic forced the three young entrepreneurs to revise their plans. They started during the summer by offering tasting sessions for groups of 12 people belonging to the same bubble, by reservation only. Their promise: to introduce the flavors of fair trade grains from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Brazil and Colombia.

Moncton’s Donut Madness

You usually have to line up to rob the new artisan donut shop on rue St-George. Hola Donuts owners Gene and Susan Cormier weren’t expecting such enthusiasm when they opened their business in downtown Moncton. Foodies come from all over the South East to snatch up their soft and sweet products. Faced with this resounding success, the couple are now thinking of setting up the sale of donuts permanently and extending an experience that was initially supposed to end after three months.


Technology US

Five easy ways for Elon Musk to combine his companies into a superconglomerate

Elon Musk thinks it’s a “good idea” to create a holding company above Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company — at least, that’s what the billionaire CEO said in response to the idea on Twitter. Such a holding company could be simply known as “X,” longtime Tesla shareholder Dave Lee suggested, in a nod to Musk’s ownership of “” from his PayPal days.

Musk notoriously entertains changes, big and small, to his companies in Twitter’s public square. In 2018 he even suggested one so large (and largely baseless) — taking Tesla private using “funding secured” from Saudi Arabia — that he wound up in court.

But the idea here isn’t so far outside the realm of possibility. It was only five years ago that Google surprise-announced a similar shakeup, creating the Alphabet holding company and splitting some of its bigger and bolder projects out into their own ventures alongside the search giant but still under that new umbrella.

If Musk is entertaining something similar after thumbing through Twitter, let’s have a think on what that would even look like.

Repeating Alphabet

The most straightforward way for Musk to create X could be to roughly follow that Alphabet model. The big difference is SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company are all separate entities that exist outside of Tesla, the only publicly-traded business of the bunch. Let’s start with Tesla, since that’s where most of the action will have to take place.

Here’s the hilariously paper push-y way Alphabet deal was structured: Google created a wholly-owned subsidiary called Alphabet. It created another new wholly-owned subsidiary underneath Alphabet called “Maple Technologies.” It then merged Maple and Google to create a new version of Google that was, you got it, wholly owned by Alphabet.

Easy, right?

As for Google stockholders:

Each share of each class of Google stock issued and outstanding immediately prior to the Alphabet Merger will automatically convert into an equivalent corresponding share of Alphabet stock, having the same designations, rights, powers and preferences and the qualifications, limitations and restrictions as the corresponding share of Google stock being converted. Accordingly, upon consummation of the Alphabet Merger, Google’s current stockholders will become stockholders of Alphabet. The stockholders of Google will not recognize gain or loss for U.S. federal income tax purposes upon the conversion of their shares in the Alphabet Merger.

In other words, Google basically said “sit tight while we change things up, and when we’re done you’ll now own a slice of Alphabet worth the same amount.”

The same could be done with Tesla. Create a Tesla subsidiary called “X,” create a merger entity underneath that, and then combine the merger entity with Tesla. Tesla shareholders transform into equivalent shareholders of X, deal done.

Well, not so fast. X would then have to bring the other three private companies into the fold. Instead of being able to just shuffle them around, like Google did with businesses like Nest, or Calico, X would probably have to acquire SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company.

That shouldn’t be too difficult since Musk is the majority owner of those companies. The trouble would more likely be philosophical. Tesla’s stock price is currently very high because a lot of people believe in the company. But how would people perceive the value of X stock if it includes these other operations? Would X stock be subject to the fewer dramatic swings since the company’s value would be less dependent on Tesla’s performance? Things of that nature.

Combining the four companies under X could help Musk further sell his futurist vision (making humanity run on sustainable energy, settling other worlds, etc.). More boringly, it could help him consolidate the various companies’ financial or human resources departments, which was a benefit Google sought with Alphabet.

Okay now let’s get weird.

Musk buys Tesla

What really doesn’t gel about going the Alphabet route is Musk… kind of despises that Tesla is a public company. Here’s what Musk wrote when he tried to take Tesla private back in 2018:

As a public company, we are subject to wild swings in our stock price that can be a major distraction for everyone working at Tesla, all of whom are shareholders. Being public also subjects us to the quarterly earnings cycle that puts enormous pressure on Tesla to make decisions that may be right for a given quarter, but not necessarily right for the long-term. Finally, as the most shorted stock in the history of the stock market, being public means that there are large numbers of people who have the incentive to attack the company.

Tesla’s in a much better place financially now, so it doesn’t have to worry so much about the second and third point there. But the overall message still tracks. Musk would rather manage his businesses with fewer prying eyes. Would he really expose SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company to the same kinds of pressures by folding them into a public holding company?

Probably not, so how do you solve that?

Tesla is the only public company of the three currently, so… take it private. Yep. Let’s run the whole funding secured experiment all over again, but forget trying to sell it off to Saudi Arabia, or Apple. Let’s get weirder.

Musk is now the second-richest man in the world, currently worth around $140 billion. He probably can’t come up with all the money it would take to buy out Tesla at its current valuation north of $600 billion — especially since half his shares in Tesla are already pledged as collateral and the company’s board has limited him to borrowing just 25 percent of the value of any additional shares. It’s also unclear how much of his SpaceX shares are pledged as collateral. But using his ownership in all four companies as the basis for loans, one could see him taking a fair-sized bite out of that $600 billion price tag.

He would need still some serious partners to join him in buying out Tesla. Perhaps billionaire and Tesla board member Larry Ellison? Seems like the least Ellison could do after Musk brought him into the fold following the funding secured debacle, and turned what was a modest investment into what is now many billions of dollars.

Musk does seem to love Tesla’s most loyal shareholders, to the point that he tried to promise that they would still own part of the company during the failed go-private transaction in 2018 — an idea that confused experts — so maybe he could find a way for them to be involved, too. Whatever consortium Musk draws up could just stand in for X, acquire Tesla, and then bring the other companies into the fold.


Musk creates one of the special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, that have been oh-so-hot this year and calls it X. He kicks it off with a lot of his own money (likely from leveraged Tesla and SpaceX shares) and the stock price immediately soars once it starts trading, because a) it’s a SPAC and that’s just how things work now, apparently, b) its existence as a vehicle for brute force capitalism excites the masses, and c) it’s Elon Musk. SPAC X becomes a blank check behemoth, he uses it to buy Tesla and the other companies,

Mars Street

Unsatisfied with merely theorizing what the laws should be on Mars, Musk establishes the first Mars Stock Exchange. He models it after terrestrial stock exchanges, but with tweaks to reduce some of his least-favorite aspects (like quarterly reporting rules or that pesky Securities and Exchange Commission). Nobody is quite sure if it’s legal, or “real,” but then again the Outer Space Treaty didn’t exactly go long on financial regulation now, did it?


Musk reveals he’s bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, sells all his coins, and buys Tesla.

As you can see, Musk has a few options if he really wants to create the kind of world-beating conglomerate that only shows up in the movies. It may be a long shot, but that’s sort of his whole thing. No wonder he thinks it’s a good idea.