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Google has been hit with a record fine over alleged “illegal conduct” in the European Union. The EU fined Alphabet Inc.’s popular search engine 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) over allegations of anti-competitive practices. The BBC reports Google is accused of promoting its own shopping service over rival online retailers in search results.
“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, said in a statement.
“It has denied other companies the chance to compete on their merits and to innovate, and most importantly it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition, genuine choice and innovation.”
The EU says Google has 90 days to “stop its illegal conduct” and give equal treatment to other price-comparison sites. The U.S.-based company has up to 60 days to respond with plans for fixing the alleged issue, or face additional fines of up to 5 percent of parent company Alphabet’s daily revenue — or $14 million.
“When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily,” Google’s lawyer Kent Walker said in a statement. “And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago.”
According to Bloomberg, Google began promoting its own comparison-shopping service in 2008 with prominent placement when users search for items. The EU began its probe two years later, in 2010.
The EU said other price comparison sites typically appear on the fourth page of search results, where users are less likely to find them as 95 percent of clicks come on the first page of search results.
Mohamed Fahmy is the last person one would expect to make the case against al-Jazeera. In 2014, the former Cairo bureau chief for the Qatar-funded television network began a 438-day sentence in an Egyptian prison on terrorism charges and practicing unlicensed journalism. His incarceration made al-Jazeera a powerful symbol of resistance to Egypt s military dictatorship. Today Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct in saying al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy. The more the network coordinates and takes directions from the government, the more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence, he told me in an interview Thursday. There are many channels who are biased, but this is past bias. Now al-Jazeera is a voice for terrorists. Fahmy s testimony is particularly important now. Al-Jazeera is at the center of a crisis ripping apart the Arab Gulf states. Earlier this month Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a political and diplomatic blockade on Qatar. Al-Jazeera has been kicked out of those countries. The treatment of al-Jazeera as an arm of the Qatari state as opposed to a news organization does not sit well with many in the West. A recent New York Times editorial accused Qatar s foes of muzzling a news outlet that could lead citizens to question their rulers in the Arab world. In some ways it s understandable for English-speaking audiences to take this view. Al-Jazeera s English-language broadcasts certainly veer politically to the left. At times the channel has sucked up to police states. The channel embarrassed itself with such fluff as a recent sycophantic feature on female traffic cops in North Korea. But al-Jazeera English has also broken some important stories. It worked with Human Rights Watch to uncover documents mapping out the links between Libyan intelligence under Moammar Gadhafi and the British and U.S. governments. Al-Jazeera s Arabic broadcasts, however, have not met these same standards in recent years. To start, the network still airs a weekly talk show from Muslim Brotherhood theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He has used his platform to argue that Islamic law justifies terrorist attacks against Israelis and U.S. soldiers. U.S. military leaders, such as retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded forces in the initial campaign to stabilize Iraq, have said publicly that al-Jazeera reporters appeared to have advance knowledge of terrorist attacks. Fahmy told me he has learned that instructions were given to journalists not to refer to al-Qaida s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra, as a terrorist organization.
He said Qatar s neighbors were justified in banning al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera has breached the true meaning of press freedom that I advocate and respect by sponsoring these voices of terror like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, he said. If al-Jazeera continues to do that, they are directly responsible for many of these lone wolves, many of these youth that are brainwashed. Fahmy didn t always have this opinion of his former employer. He began to change his views while serving time. It started in the scorpion block of Egypt s notorious Tora prison. During his stay, he came to know some of Egypt s most notorious Islamists. When I started meeting and interviewing members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their sympathizers, they specifically told me they had been filming protests and selling it to al-Jazeera and dealing fluidly with the network and production companies in Egypt associated with the network, he said. One example of al-Jazeera s coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood revolves around Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in the summer of 2013, following the military coup that unseated Mohammed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president. Fahmy took testimony from a former security guard for the network and the head of the board of trustees for Egyptian state television. Both testified that members of the Muslim Brotherhood seized the broadcast truck al-Jazeera used to air the sit-ins that summer. In other words, al-Jazeera allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast its own protests. That happened in the weeks before Fahmy was hired to be the network s Cairo bureau chief. He says he was unaware of these ties to the Muslim Brotherhood until he began doing his own research and reporting from an Egyptian prison. When Fahmy learned of these arrangements, he said, he became angry. It undermined his case before the Egyptian courts that he was unaffiliated with any political party or terrorist groups inside Egypt. To me this is a big deal, this is not acceptable, he said. It put me in danger because it s up to me to convince the judge that I was just doing journalism. Fahmy was released from prison in 2015, but not because al-Jazeera s lawyers made a good case for him. Rather, it was the work of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who eventually got him to Canada. Now Fahmy is pressing a court in British Columbia to hear his case against the network, from whom he is seeking $100 million in damages for breach of contract, misrepresentation and negligence. Fahmy s case is one more piece of evidence that the al-Jazeera seen by English-speaking audiences is not the al-Jazeera seen throughout the Muslim world. It s one more piece of evidence that Qatar s foreign policy is a double game: It hosts a military base the U.S. uses to fight terror, while funding a media platform for extremists.
Michigan has some pretty strict rules when it comes to fireworks. Hasan Dudar/Detroit Free Press
The 2017 Ford Fireworks happened on the Detroit River in downtown Detroit on Monday, June 26, 2017. (Photo: Mary Schroeder, Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo
The annual fireworks celeberation in Detroit Monday night was marred by two shootings downtown, the first one sending scores of spectators running through the streets. Police said the first shooting occurred when a group of teens began arguing at Woodward and Jefferson and one pulled out a weapon.
Detroit police secure an area near Woodward and Jefferson Monday night after a shooting during the fireworks show. (Photo: Allie Gross / Free Press)
Detroit Police Media Relations Director Michael Woody said multiple shots were fired and one bullet struck a woman bystander in the stomach. He said she was transported to an area hospital where she was listed in serious condition. Woody said police have two suspects in custody. Assistant Chief Arnold Williams said a weapon was recovered away from the scene where the suspects were apprehended.
“The fireworks is what we would call a success,” Williams said.
“…When you have a family environment where people are trying to enjoy a special event, they get into an argument and they have resolve their argument by drawing a weapon, it’s just idiotic,” Williams said.
In order to create a space for medics to transport the woman, police began barricading parts of the newly formed Spirit of Detroit Plaza near the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building. The plaza, which opened earlier this month to great fanfare, was created by closing off Woodward at Jefferson. Just as the shooting occurred, the rain paid a return visit — this time it grew from a drizzle to a brisk shower, sending even more spectators running for cover as emergency vehicles forced their way through the crowded streets; their emergency lights clashing with the lighted sky. About an hour after the downtown incident, another shooting occurred in the area of Fort and Cass, near the People Mover. Police said an argument took place involving occupants of a vehicle with some people outside of the vehicle. Those outside fired shots into the vehicle, striking the two inside. They were taken to the hospital.
“This shooting scene as far as we know has nothing to do with the fireworks,” Williams said.
The shootings come one day after three people were shot early Monday morning outside a party bus in the area of Congress and St. Antoine in downtown. Police had beefed up patrols downtown recently after a chaotic scene involving eight men attacking another man was captured on video in Greektown. Several arrests have been made in that incident. Though most recent years the fireworks show has gone off without any serious incidents. But there have been years when the show, attended by thousands of families with young children, has been sullied.
In 2013 a 37-year old man was killed near the Martin Luther King Apartments about a mile from Hart Plaza during the fireworks show. In 2011, a 16-year old girl was shot in the leg as she and her friends walked near Atwater and Beaubien near the Renaissance Center. And in 2004, nine people were shot in Hart Plaza following an argument.
In some years the city has instituted curfews for minors 17 and younger unaccompanied by an adult. But neither the shooting nor the rain Monday kept the fireworks show from going on as scheduled. And thousands stayed for the 59th annual Ford Fireworks show downtown tonight but that didn’t last for long. Just minutes before the start of the fireworks show, the rain made a return visit, first as a sprinkle, then as a brisk shower.
Added to the rain was the sound of reported gunfire near Woodward and Jefferson, just moments before the start of the show. Though police had yet to verify the source of the sound, nevertheless, it sent spectators in that area dashing through the streets. But before the rain hit, Mike Lewis, 63, and Linda Burns, 60, siblings from Highland Park, came prepared and brought an umbrella which they huddled under to hide from the brief rain.
“I hope it clears up,” Burns said around 5 p.m., adding that if it rains through the night there might not be a fireworks show.
The fireworks on the Detroit River didn’t begin until 9:55 p.m., but crowds were already gathered early on Hart Plaza to grab the best spots to view the show. And even after the rain, the show went on, with booms that mimicked thunder accompanying the rain. Linda Stokes, of Detroit had been downtown since about 2 p.m. She had reserved a room downtown at the Renaissance Center but decided to settle in on a grassy, tree-covered spot along the riverwalk with her grandchildren instead.
“There’s really nothing like having a nice view of the riverfront, really relishing the vibe, and being out in the open air,” Stokes said.
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Ralph Sanders, 25, and Erin Sanders, 22, with their 4-year-old son Aaden. (Photo: Allie Gross/ Free Press)
Ralph and Erin Sanders brought their 4-year old son Aaden to the fireworks. Ralph Sanders works at Quicken Loans and was already downtown, so his wife, who works at a neurology office in Dearborn, came down to meet him for the fireworks. It was Aaden’s first time seeing them in downtown Detroit.
“It’s pretty cool,”‘ said Ralph Sanders. Erin Sanders turned to her son to see what he thought. “Want to say anything about the fireworks,” she cooed. Aaden smiled and just nodded. Entry to Hart Plaza will close once it has reached desired capacity, and there will be no re-admittance, according to the Parade Company, the group that organized the festival. Sonya Dabney, 47, and her daughter Mercedes Fitzpatrick, 22, were sitting downtown since 7:30 p.m. to watch the fireworks. Fitzpatrick, a physical therapy assistant student at South University, is so dedicated she is working on her kinesiology homework, due Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., while she waits for the fireworks.
“I don’t work well in silence,” she laughs, noting that, yes, this may not be the most usual place to get her homework done. She and Dabney have been coming downtown for the firework for years.
“I love the fireworks and just the holiday time,” Dabney said.
Devin Polaski, 27, and his wife, Noelle Polaski, 28, and in-laws Renee Evans, 65, and Tim Evans, 57, came to the fireworks together. Devin and Noelle Polaski live blocks away from Hart Plaza and decided to walk down with Noelle’s parents, who live in St. Claire.
“It’s super nice that we live next to everything and that we don’t have to drive, that’s the biggest benefit,” said Devin who runs a video and animation company called pictomoto.tv. He said last year he and Noelle rode their bikes to Belle Isle to watch the fireworks, which was also super convenient.
In terms of what the city feels like tonight, Devin noted that there are a lot more than usual. “It feels more like we live in a “real city”” he said making air quotes. But some who had come downtown with blankets in tow were surprised to find out they couldn’t access Campus Martius Park’s grassy area without a Facebook invitation. Marcus Brooks, 21, found out about the exclusive Campus Martius firework event through an office e-mail. Brooks says everyone at Ernst & Young where he works received an e-mail Friday inviting them to watch the firework in Campus Martius.
He invited his girlfriend Kayla Haber-Bates, 22, as soon as he found out, saying he liked the idea of watching the fireworks in a secure area. “It’s already set up, you don’t have to worry about finding a spot.”
While he ran into one colleague already, he notes that the park is pretty roomy.
“I know a deterrence was someone saying they didn’t know you could actually see the fireworks from here,” he said.
A security guard confirmed that this was the case. You’d be able to hear the noise but not see anything.
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