Google Slammed With Humongous Fine By The European Union
EU antitrust regulators today slapping Google with a $2.7-billion fine, the biggest ever, saying if the U.S. tech giant doesn’t mend its ways within 90 days they’ll start collecting 5% of the company’s global revenue every single day. You can read the European Commission’s official news release here.
The crime? Anti-competitive practices. The EC charges Google favors its own comparison shopping service over others when users search for items they want to buy. The “proof”? While other comparison shopping sites have seen declines in traffic, Google Shopping has been soaring. The EC concludes that Google has taken the 90% share of search it enjoys in European markets and abused that dominance by giving Google Shopping an illegal advantage.
To which we ask: Why wouldn’t they? They have to steer customers somewhere. Does the EU really expect Google to send their customers over to Amazon?
But Europe is extremely protective of retailers and retail sites. Many countries even determine the dates each year stores are allowed to put things on sale.
The European Commission also taking the unusual step in its press release of threatening further action against other Google products: for instance, the Android operating system which it says Google has used to “stifle choice and innovation in a range of mobile apps.”
Google’s argument back is fairly simple: it’s giving customers a better, not worse, experience. The company’s general counsel says users “prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches.”
The Financial Times suggests the move could help trigger a trade war with the U.S. President Trump has suggested he might slap tariffs on European steel. Trump, so far, has been mum about the EU’s unprecedented action against Google. He’s spent most of the morning so far re-Tweeting Fox and Friends, and obsessing about a scandal at CNN where several employees resigned after the network retracted a story alleging ties between a Trump ally and a Russian investment fund.
U.S./Syria/Russia Triangle Grows More Perilous
The White House saying Syrian President Assad is preparing a chemical attack, and if he does, he will “pay a heavy price.”
After a previous chemical attack (which Assad denies) Trump bombed Syrian airbases, and the U.S. has since shot down a Syrian jet it said was firing on U.S. backed fighters. Assad and Russia are teamed up, as is the U.S. with non-Syrian army groups. All sides say they are simply fighting ISIS, but at the same time are coming into increasing conflict with each other.
Trump Technically Could Say The Senate Health Care Bill Is Less Mean Than The House Bill He Originally Called “Great”
According to new Congressional Budget Office estimates, under the Senate’s plan 22-million people will lose health insurance. The estimates for the House’s plan showed 23-million people losing their insurance.
And the Senate Republican plan saves the government much more money: $321-billion over 10-years, vs. only $119-billion saved by the House bill. It would save even more if wasn’t so busy giving back $541-billion in taxes to the wealthy.
By far, the largest chunk of savings, $772-billion, would come from cutting Medicaid. As we’ve mentioned and will continue to mention, these cuts undermine strong talk about battling the opioid epidemic (25% of all opioid abuse treatment is currently paid for by Medicaid; 40% in states where it’s at its worst.)
And as we’ve mentioned and will continue to mention, Medicaid’s one thing President Trump vowed he would not touch:
I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. Huckabee copied me.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2015
Two Prime Examples Of What A Disgusting Jumble The Republican Health Care Plan Has Become
• Everybody hates the individual mandate, right? You know, that thing that says you have to buy health insurance or pay a penalty? It’s one of the first things that goes away under the Senate plan. Only problem, without it, there is little incentive for healthy people to buy insurance, since they can just buy it as soon as they get sick. So what’s the solution? If you won’t force healthy people to buy insurance, guess you can just not let sick people buy it, right? But wait, you said people won’t be denied because of pre-existing conditions. So what can you do? A Monday addition to the Republican plan solves it by locking people out if they’ve let coverage lapse 63 days or more. Get sick suddenly? Too bad. You’re gonna have to wait, without insurance, for 6 months.
• And our favorite health care reporter, Sarah Kliff of Vox points out, the CBO strongly suggests that because of higher premiums and poorer coverage, “few low-income people would purchase any plan,” even if they are entitled to government subsidies.
We’re seeing so many stories saying things like “Obamacare repeal on brink of defeat” [Politico] “Senate health care bill in jeopardy” [CNN], even suggesting that Mitch McConnell actually kinda wants the bill to fail. [NY Times] Remember, though, back in April when many of those same people were writing things like House “Obamacare repeal bill on life support” [The Hill] right before it passed. And just a couple of months before that, how Trump could never win…?
Two Big Wins For Trump At The Supreme Court (And One Small Loss), First: Trump Gets His Travel Ban
Or at least a version of it. And before you go shouting about how political the Court has become, the decision was unanimous. 9-0. The Court didn’t really rule on the ban: they agreed to hear arguments in the case in the fall, but in the meantime upheld it, while specifying significant exceptions. Those would be people who can prove they are visiting relatives, are students, or are employed by U.S. companies (Silicon Valley in particular, lobbied hard against the ban.) Of course, this may prove very confusing and difficult to enforce when it goes into effect in the next 72 hours. And there’s no doubt it’s a blow to refugees trying to enter the country.
It’s hard to argue a 9-0 ruling is not a slam dunk (as Trump has been doing vociferously on Twitter.) But many legal scholars wondered aloud why the court allowed the ban to only “(kind of, sort of, but not really) go into (some) effect,” as UC Irvine Law Professor Leah Litman puts it. While she argues the court was right in taking a common-sense approach to managing the ban, she asks “why did the Court conclude that the government has not made the requisite showing (of irreparable harm, or that the lower court’s decisions were wrong) to allow the entire ban and suspension to go into effect?”
Meantime, Trump’s new “guy” on the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch was one of three who argued for an even fuller implementation of the “travel ban.”
The Separation Between Church And State Gets A Little Less Separated
The Court ruled 7-2 that it was wrong for the state of Missouri to deny government funds to a parochial school to resurface its playground with recycled tires. The school lost out on a state grant on the grounds that it was not entitled to the money because of separation of church and state. But the court says it is.
The reason this case was closely watched is that President Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been pushing for government vouchers which would allow parents to choose to send their children to church or charter schools instead of public schools. This ruling seems to move in that direction, at least in some limited way.
And that may be why Chief Justice John Roberts took care to include this statement (our emphasis): “This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.”
Trump’s guy on the Court, Gorsuch, jumped in to say he doesn’t agree with the Chief Justice’s narrow interpretation. (Along with Justice Clarence Thomas.)
Court Won’t Hear 2nd Amendment Case
The Court decided not to hear a case involving whether San Diego, California has the right to ask people for a good reason if they want permission to carry concealed weapons outside.
But even this move came with a silver lining for Trump: proof he picked a real doozy in Justice Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch objected strongly to the decision not to hear the case, along with Clarence Thomas who said it “reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right.”