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Google Employees Are Free to Speak Up. Except on Antitrust.

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Google employees are not shy about speaking up. In the last few years, they have openly confronted the company about building a censored search engine in China, the handling of sexual harassment claims and its work with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence technology for weapons.

But there is one subject that employees avoid at all costs: antitrust.

They don’t address it in emails. They don’t bring it up in big company meetings. They are regularly reminded that Google doesn’t “crush,” “kill,” “hurt” or “block” the competition. And if you hope to land an executive job at the internet company, do not bring up the A-word in the interview process.

As the U.S. Justice Department, a coalition of state attorneys general and a Congressional subcommittee have investigated Google for monopoly behavior over the last year, there has been little discussion internally about antitrust concerns. Now, as the department prepares to file a lawsuit against the company, the usual forums where Google employees debate anything and everything have been startlingly subdued about what may be an existential threat to it.

That’s because Google’s leaders have made it clear that antitrust is not a topic to be trifled with.

In compliance courses, employees of the Silicon Valley giant are taught what to say about it and how to say it. The legal department is looped into even innocuous emails to apply “attorney-client privilege,” another layer of protection from prying regulators. And while there is no written policy banning discussion of antitrust, a former executive recalled “coming down like a ton of bricks” on an employee who wrote flippantly about antitrust concerns.

The caution is not limited to employees. After Google interviewed a candidate for an executive job last year, that person sent a follow-up email to Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive. In the email, the candidate asked about the antitrust implications of a potential merger, according to two people familiar with the incident. An antitrust question to Mr. Pichai was seen as inappropriate, raising questions about the candidate’s judgment, the people said. While it did not disqualify the candidate, it was seen as a negative for their job prospects.

All of this has contributed to an unspoken understanding among Google employees that it is not wise to address the antitrust issues openly, said six current and former employees, who declined to be identified because they were either not permitted to talk publicly or feared retaliation.

“It’s seen as something you don’t talk about because there is no productive conversation associating Google with the word ‘monopoly,’” said Jack Poulson, a Google research scientist who left the company in 2018 and now works at a tech ethics nonprofit. “The reality is that Googlers are paid well and that’s because of the monopoly. In effect, the monopoly is on their side.”

Julie Tarallo McAlister, a Google spokeswoman, said the company has “standard competition law compliance trainings like most big companies. We ask our employees to compete fairly and build great products, rather than focus or opine on competitors.”

Some employees said the caution around antitrust is a byproduct of Google spending most of the last decade fighting antitrust cases around the world. They said a two-year investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which ultimately decided in 2013 to not bring a case against Google, was the turning point that made the company more aware of regulatory risk.

Google is now extremely careful about what it puts in emails and company documents, and considers the antitrust implications of its business deals and strategy. One former executive said that after the F.T.C. started its investigation, the company determined that acquisitions to bolster its dominant search business, such as its 2010 purchase of ITA Software, a flight information company, were now off the table.

William Fitzgerald, a former policy and communications manager who left Google in 2018, said that while his policy team discussed antitrust strategy “ad nauseam,” it was not a topic widely talked about among the broader work force.

“The direction from top management was to focus on your day job,” said Mr. Fitzgerald, who now runs the Worker Agency, a strategic advocacy firm.

Some Google employees said they don’t talk about antitrust at work because they don’t care about it. One said it was not a meaningful part of their day-to-day jobs. Another said there were so many reports of antitrust investigations about Google in different countries that it all became white noise.

Google said that based on its internal data, employees were not interested in antitrust issues and did not raise it at company events.

ImageGoogle employees held a walkout in a park near the company’s New York offices in 2018.
Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

Yet the company still takes steps to be extra careful. All employees are required to take an annual online training course about how to communicate in a way to avoid legal issues with regulators. In the training, which was reported on earlier by The Markup, employees are told to assume that every document and email will end up in the hands of regulators, so they should refrain from using certain words or phrases.

“We are not out to ‘crush,’ ‘kill,’ ‘hurt,’ ‘block,’ or do anything else that might be perceived as evil or unfair,” according to a slide used in the training, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

The training seems to be paying off. One part of the compliance course instructs employees to avoid estimating the company’s market share. So in February when House lawmakers interviewed Google as part of an investigation into the power of tech giants, the company had an explanation for why it could not supply the market share data that would likely underscore its dominance. Google said it “doesn’t maintain information in the normal course of business” about the market share of its products, according to a report about the inquiry’s findings.

Employees said it was common to hear people in meetings declare that a sensitive subject is “not for notes,” referring to a written summary of the proceedings. This was especially the case when the conversation turned to how Google intended to compete with a rival or when participants discussed a competitor’s strategy.

In addition, Google employees often marked communication between employees as “A/C Priv,” which is shorthand for “attorney-client privilege,” in the subject line. Employees are told to include a lawyer among the recipients and to type “A/C Priv, seeking advice” in the body of the email, said four current and former employees.

While many companies take such measures to keep communications with lawyers confidential, Google is particularly aggressive, according to the current and former employees. Ms. Tarallo McAlister said Google informed employees “that privilege only applies to communications that seek legal advice or that are prepared at the direction of a lawyer.”

Often, emails that are not actually seeking legal advice are marked as privileged, including mundane presentation slides, minor bug fixes or inconsequential department memos. Ultimately, if the Justice Department or other regulators asked for those documents, Google would have the option of declaring them as secret communication.

“It’s a delay tactic,” said Sam Weinstein, a former official in the antitrust division of the Justice Department and a professor at Cardozo School of Law. “It can be effective if the government doesn’t have the manpower.”

In 2012, the Texas attorney general filed a civil suit against Google, accusing it of withholding 14,500 documents claiming attorney-client privilege during an investigation into the company. Greg Abbott, then the state’s attorney general and now its governor, said Google had not met the burden of proving that privilege was applicable to many of the documents.

In one example, he cited an email from a Google executive to his superior marked with “attorney-client privilege,” which was copied to a Google lawyer and five other employees. The discussion was about changing how to present reviews from other websites and how to present a recommendation to management. The bulk of the email was about “purely business matters” and did not seek or reference legal advice, the complaint said.

Texas dropped the lawsuit two years later without explanation.

Years in the glare of the antitrust spotlight have appeared to make Google confident that it can handle the scrutiny. When asked about regulatory concerns and interest from the Justice Department in a conference call with analysts in July 2019, Mr. Pichai said the company was familiar with how to deal with the regulators.

“It’s not new to us,” he said. “We have participated in these processes before.”

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Mexico will buy 34.4 million vaccines Pfizer

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The vaccines of this pharmaceutical company were photographed by the British press coming off the production line.

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October 19, 2020 2 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

  • If it meets the requirements, the pharmaceutical company would have 200 million doses by 2020.

Pfizer’s vaccines were photographed by the British press coming off the production line and Mexico could acquire between 15.5 and 34.4 million of them, since the American pharmaceutical company is among those that signed a contract with the country’s government.

The vaccines that were portrayed still have to meet a number of conditions before they can be distributed. In the first instance, they must pass clinical trials and then be approved by regulators internationally.

If it meets the requirements, the pharmaceutical company would have 200 million doses by 2020 and of these 40 million would be for the United Kingdom. Likewise, by 2021 they would produce an estimated 1.3 billion.

On October 16, the proposed purchase sale with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and CanSino in Mexico was announced. The country’s government committed to the purchase of approximately 140 million doses.

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U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Qaeda Financier Who Trades in Gems

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on an Australian-based businessman and his gemstone company for helping Al Qaeda move money across the globe to sustain its operations.

Treasury officials said Ahmed Luqman Talib traded in precious stones, allowing him to “move funds internationally” for Al Qaeda. Mr. Talib’s business is based in Melbourne, but he works around the world, including in Brazil, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Turkey and the Persian Gulf region, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Terrorist groups continue to use financial facilitators to help carry out their activities, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. The department remained committed to disrupting those financial activities and networks, he added, expressing appreciation for “the collaboration with our Australian partners.”

The effects of the sanctions on Mr. Talib are unclear. The measure freezes assets he holds in the United States and prohibits American companies or individuals from doing business with him.

Treasury officials did not disclose whether Mr. Talib held assets or property in the United States. In 2010, he was a student activist in Australia who was shot when Israeli naval commandos killed nine activists on a ship that was carrying aid to Gaza.

The American action against Mr. Talib was notable, experts said, because it showed that the government was still concerned about how extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State continue to creatively raise and distribute money for their operations, despite military, intelligence and legal pressures that have dealt significant blows to their activity.

“It goes to show that Al Qaeda still retains these kind of networks,” said Charles Lister, the director of the Countering Terrorism and Extremism Program at the Middle East Institute, a think tank. “Even though the U.S. has done a very good job in pressuring the networks to such an extent that they are kind of a miniature version of 10 or 15 years ago.”

Mr. Talib’s use of gemstones to move finances for Al Qaeda was a departure from what had become a norm in terrorist financing, experts said, which was to stray from transnational funding toward developing income streams in countries where they maintained a presence. But terrorism experts noted the development with interest.

“Governments and private sector have made it harder to move funds via formal and informal financial systems,” said Matthew Levitt, the director of counterterrorism and intelligence at The Washington Institute. “It is interesting to see terrorists relying on gemstones, which are easy to move and hold value.”

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Al Qaeda’s influence across the world has diminished. Key leaders, including Osama bin Laden, have been killed. The group’s lone ideological leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is aging, and U.S. intelligence experts do not see him as a potent threat.

Despite that, the group continues to find inventive ways to finance its operations.

In August, the United States government seized about $2 million in Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency from accounts that had sent or received funds in alleged financing schemes for three foreign terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda.

Other groups, like the Islamic State, have also found ways to rely on methods such as kidnapping for ransom, private donations and crowdsourced online fund-raising, according to a United Nations report. ISIS currently has financial reserves estimated at nearly $100 million, the U.N. found.

“ISIS taught us in recent years that international financing of terrorist activities isn’t the most sustainable way to go,” Mr. Lister said. “That was a big lesson, and it definitely transformed the way Al Qaeda operates.”

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After denying the existence of COVID-19, influencer dies from this disease

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“I also thought there was no COVID, and this is all relative. Until I got sick,” he posted on his Instagram account.

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October 19, 2020 3 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

  • El hombre contrajo la enfermedad en un viaje que realizó a Turquía.
  • “También pensé que no había COVID, y todo esto es relativo. Hasta que me enfermé”, publicó en su cuenta de Instagram.

Definitivamente el coronavirus, ha sido un tema controvertido entre diferentes personalidades públicas en el mundo. Algunos de ellos hasta han negado su existencia. Sin embargo, es importante recordar que el COVID-19 es una enfermedad real y hay que cuidarnos.

Dmitriy Stuzhuk, influencer fitness, ucraniano, murió tras haberse infectado de SARS-CoV-2 . El deportista había negado la existencia del virus cuando lo declararon pandemia. Sin embargo, publicó en sus redes que había contraído la enfermedad.

“Como todos saben por las historias, estoy enfermo de coronavirus. Hoy, después de regresar a casa, por primera vez hubo entusiasmo por al menos escribir algo. Quiero compartir cómo me enfermé y advertir a todos: también pensé que no había covid, y todo esto es relativo. Hasta que me enfermé. ¡LA ENFERMEDAD COVID-19 NO ES EFÍMERA! Y es pesada ”, dice en un publicación en Instagram de hace cinco días.

CORONAVIRUS “COVID” DAY 8 ⠀ As you all know from the stories, I have corlnavirus. Today, after returning home, for the first time there was an enthusiasm for at least writing something. I want to share how I got sick and strongly warn everyone: I also thought that there was no covid, and this is all relative. Until he got sick. COVID-19 DISEASE IS NOT EPHEME! And heavy. But first things first. ⠀ How was it? I felt bad on the second day in Turkey. I woke up in the middle of the night because my neck was swollen and it was hard to breathe. At the same time, my stomach ached a little. ⠀ The next day, a cough began to appear, but there was no temperature. There were no particular symptoms of the disease either, so I thought that these could be consequences after playing sports, changing the climate and nutrition, and plus sleeping under air conditioning. ⠀ After returning from Turkey, I immediately went to take various tests, do an ultrasound scan and, just in case, decided to take a COVID test. It turned out to be positive. The next day I went to have a CT scan. I was prescribed treatment and began to insist on hospitalization. This is a separate story, because now there are renovations, the hospital is completely filled with people, some of them live in the corridor There is no food, no paper, no cutlery either! Nobody warned me about this. A separate post will be devoted to medicine in our country – well, it deserves it. ⠀ ABOUT TREATMENT. I was prescribed a course of treatment and told that I needed to continue it. They gave me an oxygen apparatus for breathing, since I have a low oxygen level (although I think it is considered critical after 90, for me 94-96 it is quite permissible for treatment at home, the doctor in the waiting room told me the same thing). Considering all these factors, I make a decision that it will be more convenient and comfortable for me to be in remote care at home, where I have all the conditions for normal treatment. In the end, I can always turn to the right services. She is at home, as they say, and the walls heal ⠀ My condition is stable.

Una publicación compartida de Dima Stuzhuk (@stuzhuk_dmitriy) el 14 Oct, 2020 a las 11:22 PDT

El hombre contrajo la enfermedad en un viaje que realizó a Turquía. En la misma publicación cuenta su historia y cómo empezó a sentirse: “me desperté en medio de la noche porque mi cuello estaba hinchado y me costaba respirar. Al mismo tiempo, me dolía un poco el estómago. Al día siguiente, empezó a aparecer tos, pero no había temperatura. Tampoco había síntomas particulares de la enfermedad, por lo que pensé que podrían ser consecuencias después de hacer deporte, cambiar el clima y la nutrición, y además dormir debajo de un aire acondicionado ”.

Luego de regresar decidió ir al medico y realizarse pruebas, dentro de ellas la de COVID-19, y resultó positivo. Tras pasar ocho días en el hospital, el influencer regresó a su casa para seguir con el tratamiento.

Sin embargo, su exesposa, también influencer, Sofia Stuzhuk dio a conocer la noticia a través de su Instagram donde publicó una foto de su familia diciendo “Dima ya no está con nosotros. Su corazón no pudo soportar ”.

La pareja tenía tres hijos juntos, y aunque se habían separado llevaban una buena relación. Sofia comentó que su ex pareja tenía problemas cardiovasculares y el 16 de octubre confirmó la triste noticia.

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