U.S. Senate, White House gear up for battle over China's ZTE

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Legislation to block the Trump administration’s agreement with China’s ZTE Corp allowing it to resume business with American suppliers could be delayed, or even killed, by procedural rules in the U.S. Congress, lawmakers and aides said on Wednesday.

A woman stands outside a building of ZTE Beijing research and development center in Beijing, China June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The U.S. Senate is due to vote as soon as this week on the legislation as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a defense policy bill Congress passes every year. The White House strongly opposes the measure.

If it passes, before the defense bill becomes law, a joint committee of the House of Representatives and Senate must negotiate a final version of the bill. The ZTE provision could be stripped out during those negotiations. The House version does not include the ZTE measure.

Mac Thornberry, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would oppose including anything in the NDAA not germane to the Defense Department if it threatened to delay the swift package of the $716 billion bill, which governs everything from military pay raises to aircraft and ship purchases, military aid and other national security policies.

He said that process could be completed by the end of July.

The House NDAA already includes a provision barring U.S. government agencies from using “risky” technology from ZTE or Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], describing the companies as “linked to the Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence apparatus.”

The measure could also be held up if President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, who control Congress, rule that it does not belong in legislation setting policy for the Pentagon.

Should it become law, the measure would restore penalties on ZTE for violating export controls and bar U.S. government agencies from purchasing or leasing equipment or services from the Chinese company.

The United States government banned the company earlier this year, but the Trump administration reached an agreement to lift the ban, while it is negotiating broader trade agreements with China and looking to Beijing for support during negotiations to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Chinese President Xi Jinping requested the change.

In a settlement with the U.S. Commerce Department, the company agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, overhaul its leadership and meet other conditions, including putting $400 million in escrow in a U.S.-approved bank.

The White House pushed back against the legislation, defending the agreement as “part of an historic enforcement action” giving the U.S. government some leverage over ZTE’s activity without “undue harm” to U.S. suppliers and workers.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the administration will work with Congress to ensure that the final version of the NDAA “respects the separation of powers.”

The ZTE measure’s main sponsors, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen and Republican Senator Tom Cotton, both said they believed it had enough support from Republicans and Democrats to pass the Senate despite White House opposition.

“We can’t let them off the hook with a slap on the wrist, because if we do that it will … send the wrong messages to countries around the world,” Van Hollen said in a Senate speech.

Cotton said he and Van Hollen would keep working in the common months to ensure the ZTE measure stays in the defense bill.

ZTE shares plunged in Hong Kong and Shenzhen markets on Wednesday in its first day of trading after an almost two-month halt. Investors wiped about $3 billion off its market value, or about 40 percent, in initial trading.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Damon Darlin and Tom Brown

Biggest Surprises (and Missed Opportunities) of the E3 Press Conferences

It’s Tuesday, which means the E3 show floor is now open. It also means we’re finally at the end of a four-day slog of press conferences from some of the gaming world’s largest publishers. While Activision Blizzard still doesn’t do its own pre-E3 event, just about everyone else does, which means these 96 hours have been a deluge of announcements and reveals that we did our best to get our arms around. We didn’t even cover them all: the Square Enix press conference was basically devoid of new information, and the PC Gaming Show, while compelling, was mostly a long list of indie game announcements—some of which we’ll be getting to later this week.

So, for now, here’s everything you need to know about every press conference you need to know about. Get through this, and you’ll be ready for all the other E3 news that starts….well, now.

Electronic Arts

E3 kicked things off on Saturday (yes, Saturday) with a quiet, largely uneventful press conference from Electronic Arts, broadcasted from their annual EA Play event at the Hollywood Palladium. The presser opened with Battlefield V, set during World War II, which will have heavily destructible environments and a Battle Royale Mode a la Fortnite. Respawn Entertainment gave up some details about their in-progress Star Wars game—more on that shortly—and a bit of an update on the ongoing service for Star Wars: Battlefront II.

In new games, EA revealed Unravel 2, a follow-up to its game about a precocious, cuddly little yarn man (this time, he has a friend!) and Sea of Solitude, a compellingly brooding small game introduced by a compellingly earnest German developer. The publisher also took the wraps announced a mobile Command & Conquer game and gave a lengthy demo of Anthem, BioWare’s upcoming shared-world mech game that seems to be aiming to be a Destiny killer. Even better, Anthem now has a date: February, 22, 2019. (Also FIFA was there, because FIFA is always there.)

Biggest Surprise: We got a name for Respawn’s new Star Wars game: Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn has made great first-person shooters with the Titanfall series, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with the Star Wars license.

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Jedi: Fallen Order was announced sans logo or even concept trailer, which felt like a letdown. It’s hard to get excited about a name, even when it’s a good name.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s last couple of Xbox press conferences haven’t exactly succeeded at articulating the future of the Xbox—even if that future is unexpectedly bright. This year, then, was a pleasant surprise: Microsoft brought a lot of material, and a lot of surprises.

First, the publisher has quietly been getting very acquisition-happy, and is hoping to bolster its first-party games with a slew of studios that they now own. These include Ninja Theory, who made last year’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Undead Labs (State of Decay), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few). It’s hard to say whether or not acquisitions like this are good for studios; creators get a payday, but history is riddled with instances of big publishers buying small studios and slowly running them into the ground. Time will tell whether or not this is good for gaming, but it’s certainly a good move for Microsoft.

Then, there were games. A lot of games. There’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a game about ninjas from the developers of Dark Souls, coming in 2019. Forza Horizon 4, a new installment that takes the racing franchise to Britain. The Division 2, which brings the shared world shooter to Washington, DC. Devil May Cry 5, with the franchise’s original creator back at the helm. Dying Light 2, a sequel to my favorite zombie parkour game. Gears of War 5, a Gears of War tactics game, and a Gears of War themed, uh, Funko Pop game. And Halo: Infinite, a new installment in the Halo franchise that we know just about nothing about. Also, fans got a new trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3, which is officially coming out January 25, 2019.

Biggest Surprise: Halo: Infinite could be a big deal, as could the expanded effort into Microsoft Game Pass, a subscription service that gives subscribers the Netflix-like ability to download and play a swath of the Xbox library for a flat monthly fee. But after Microsoft made so much noise about the PC at last year’s press conference, this year’s relative silence spoke volumes.

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Offering just about no details on a new Halo title made the announcement fall pretty flat.

Bethesda

The Bethesda E3 Showcase was huge this year. We got a closer look at Rage 2, a massive open-world shooter co-developed by id Software and Avalanche Studios, complete (?) with an on-stage appearance by Andrew WK. A short trailer played for Doom Eternal a sequel to the excellent Doom 2016 reboot; just like the old-school Doom 2, Eternal is apparently set on Earth. QuakeCon in August should provide many more details in that realm.

There will also be a new Wolfenstein game next year, set in an alternate-universe 1980s and starring the twin daughters of Nazi-murder-machine BJ Blaskowicz. And then there’s the big stuff: a lengthy look at Fallout 76, an impressive-looking, fully online, open-world Fallout game coming November 14; Elder Scrolls Blades, a mobile phone game that strives to be a fully featured, complete Elder Scrolls experience; and two projects much farther out on the development pipeline, sci-fi title Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI. Both are unlikely to show up on the current generation of consoles.

Biggest Surprise: Any glimpse at Elder Scrolls VI is a bit of a surprise, actually. As was the jokey-but-maybe-real Announcement of Skyrim: Very Special Edition for the Alexa.

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Andrew WK, whose presence seemed to confuse and even tranquilize the crowd. (To be fair, this is mostly a missed opportunity for Andrew WK.)

Ubisoft

Ubisoft’s presser opted for meatiness, giving fans a long look at Beyond Good and Evil 2, which looks to be a huge earthy space opera, though detail are scarce about gameplay or release. As Microsoft also revealed, The Division 2 will be set in Washington, DC, and will feature raids and free DLC as it tries its hardest to become the Tom Clancy-verse Destiny-killer it aspires to be.

New properties showed up as well. There was a lot of Skull & Bones, a gritty pirate adventure in a shared online world, and Starlink: Battle for Atlas, a sci-fi toys-to-life game (think Skylanders) bringing its dogfight-heavy combat to the Nintendo Switch—and featuring Fox from Star Fox. Finally, there was a big look at Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which takes place in Ancient Greece and lets the player choose between two characters. Also, you can talk to Socrates, so … there’s that. Odyssey comes out October 5.

Biggest Surprise: Unlike the past couple of years, Aisha Tyler didn’t host. Aisha! Where’d you go? (Probably one of your gazillion jobs.)

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Despite teasing it with recent DLC for Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Ubisoft did not announce a new entry in the Splinter Cell stealth game franchise. Color me disappointed.

Sony

Sony’s Monday-night press conference this year was a bit odd. It started in a small “church” set, which ended up being a recreation of a location from The Last of Us, Part II, which was also the first game shown of the night. The showcase focused on lengthy demos for a handful of major Sony titles: The Last of Us; Ghost of Tsushima, a samurai game developed by Sucker Punch, which looks like a Kurosawa fan’s dream game; Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima’s surrealist eco-pocalypse starring mo-capped digital versions of Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen along with what was, frankly, a weird number of babies; and Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man, which is looking like quite a romp.

Between each of these big showcases, we got canned commentary along with other announcements: A Resident Evil 2 full HD remake, coming next January 22; va sequel to the samurai Souls-like Nioh 2 developed by Team Ninja; and Control, a fascinating-looking game from Remedy Entertainment (Alan Wake) about the director of a supernatural agency. There was also another Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer, showcasing a Pirates of the Carribean world, which brought the week’s KH3 trailer total to three (so far).

Biggest Surprise: The footage of The Last of Us, Part II, along with being just as dizzyingly hyperviolent as its predecessor, featured what might be the first and only lesbian kiss ever featured on an E3 stage. The presentation of queerness in a game by a company like Sony isn’t without reproach by any means, but that’s honestly still pretty cool.

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Fair warning: I’m not going to stop hollering about Bloodborne 2 until they release Bloodborne 2.

Nintendo

Nintendo’s press conference somehow felt both huge and underwhelming. First, we got some new announcements, in the form of Daemon x Machina, a neat-looking mech action game, coming in 2019; some DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 2; a new snazzy-looking Fire Emblem; and Super Mario Party, which will include the novel feature of linking together two Switch consoles to make one big board-game simulation. Next: that game you like is coming back in style! Yes, it was the Nintendo Switch port montage, featuring a ton of games, like Dragon Ball FighterZ, Hollow Knight, Wasteland 2, and the JRPG classic The World Ends With You (which we’d heard about but was still nice to see).

The rest of the show was devoted to one title, and one title only: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which arrives for the Nintendo Switch December 7. They ran down the characters (all of them, from every Smash Bros game ever, are here), and went over a long list of very detailed changes that are sure to delight hardcore fans but might have been a bit dull to everyone else. And that was, uh, it.

Biggest Surprise: Ridley, the giant dragon alien baddie from Metroid, is coming to Smash Bros, which seems like a logistical nightmare for the developers.

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Nintendo completely failed to mention Metroid Prime 4, which the company had announced last year, or their online service, which is supposedly still slated for this fall and yet is still a huge unknown.


More Great WIRED Stories

Deliveroo steps up Just Eat battle, letting restaurants use own riders

LONDON (Reuters) – Deliveroo will allow restaurants to use their own riders for orders placed through its takeaway food app, in a move which will boost the number of available outlets by 50 percent as it intensifies a battle with rival Just Eat.

FILE PHOTO: Deliveroo food delivery bags are seen in Nice, France, June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

All orders currently placed on the platform in Britain are delivered by one of the firm’s 15,000 riders, well-known for their distinctive black and teal jackets and delivery boxes emblazoned with its kangaroo logo.

Just Eat, however, works with restaurants which mainly supply their own drivers in Britain, and in limited cases uses third-party couriers.

Deliveroo hopes the change, which is called Marketplace+ and comes into effect in July, will boost the number of available restaurants from 10,000 to 15,000 by the end of the year with thousands more riders likely to be taken on.

Restaurants will be able to accept orders and assign them to either their own drivers or those on Deliveroo’s platform.

“Traditionally we’ve been unable to work with those restaurants … because they already have their own delivery fleet and so they thought ‘well we don’t really need Deliveroo,’” co-founder and Chief Executive Will Shu told reporters.

“We’re changing the game. We’re enabling these restaurants to tap into our delivery fleet,” he added.

Just Eat said in March it would spend an extra 50 million pounds ($67 million) this year to battle competition from rivals such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo, in a fiercely competitive market which has burgeoned in recent years.

Since making its first delivery in London in 2013, Deliveroo has expanded into 11 other countries with new markets due soon, prompting questions about whether the firm will pursue an initial public offering (IPO) as it continues to grow.

“An IPO – I’m not saying it’s off the cards,” said Shu. “It’s definitely something that we’ll consider but just not now. We’re not in any rush, we’re heads-down on trying to really grow this business,” he said.

Editing by Stephen Addison

Ubisoft E3 2018 Live-Blog: All The Announcements In One Place

Credit: Ubisoft

I’m live-blogging Ubisoft’s E3 press conference. Join me.

Okay, the Ubisoft E3 Press Conference has begun. I’m a little late to the party due to some technical difficulties on my end, so we’ll just jump right in.

Here’s the livestream if you want to watch it live. Refresh the page for updates as we go.

Update:

The show is over now. You can read through the below timeline to see what was shown off during the conference. I’ll be updating this post with some images and trailers and will have some more individual posts about the various games shown off published soon. Cheers!

1:05 PM: A big panda and a bunch of band members just danced to show off Just Dance 2019. Quite the production. Ubisoft is starting things off with a bang.

1:08 PM: This looks like Beyond Good & Evil 2. More cinematic stuff, but very very cool looking.

1:10 PM: Yep, Beyond Good & Evil 2. Still one of the coolest looking upcoming games but I have that nagging “too good to be true” feeling.

1:12 PM: Sorry, I spaced out while listening to them talk about the game. I just want to see gameplay. Now we’re learning about the Space Monkey program which sounds like a user-generator content program.

1:14 PM: Joseph Gordon Levitt is on stage now talking about the Space Monkey program and how you can be a part of contributing your talent to the game. He’s involved with the project through HitRecord.org and he’s…surprisingly natural on stage at a video game presser. Usually these celebrities are a disaster.

1:16 PM: Rainbow Six: Siege has 35 million players (not concurrently, but that’s still a hefty number of gamers playing a very hardcore tactical game.)

1:18 PM: They’re talking about the competitive events upcoming for Rainbow Six: Siege now so I’m once again just glazing over. Sorry folks, I’m just not an eSports guy.

1:24 PM: Oh sorry, the eSports stuff is done and there’s a guy in a really loud outfit talking about Trials Rising, which looks like a cool new Trials game. I like dirt bikes.

1:25 PM: You can sign up for a closed beta at www.trialsgame.com. The game comes out February 2019, and it’s also coming to the Nintendo Switch. Good.

Here’s the Trials trailer:

1:28 PM: Okay, we’re going to see some Division 2 now. Hopefully Ubisoft doesn’t pull a Bungie with this one.

1:33 PM: The setting for the game is Washington, D.C. which is…kind of disappointing honestly.

1:35 PM: Crowd goes wild…Raids are coming to The Division 2. That’s good for real end-game content.

1:36 PM: Ubisoft has a three-episode plan of post-release content in year one of The Division 2. Sounds like they’re really thinking this through. Maybe they learned something.

1:39 PM: Some Mario Rabbids stuff now. We’re getting a glimpse of the new Donkey Kong DLC. This is actually a musical segment so if you can’t watch the music live, just try to picture it in your head.

1:42 PM: They’re showing off footage from the Donkey Kong adventure. A seagull is flying around some of the levels and oh…the Rabbid Kong just smashed the poor thing. By the way, Mario Rabbids is an excellent turn-based tactical game. I love it. You should go play it. It’s so great and the Donkey Kong content looks fantastic.

1:44 PM: This must be Skull & Bones. A very nice pirate cinematic is playing.

1:46 PM: So, will there be an actual story in this game? With characters and such? Or is this all just window-dressing for the naval combat stuff that we’ve previously seen (and which I played at last year’s E3.)

1:47 PM: The guy talking about Skull & Bones just dropped an F-bomb and some guys cheered. Now we know this presser is super edgy and mature.

1:48 PM: Okay, so Skull & Bones is a shared-world pirate game where every player encounter matters. Sounding a lot like a less cartoony Sea of Thieves. Though less reliant on multiple players sailing a single ship. Looks like each player has their own ship instead, which will definitely be easier for solo players.

1:55 PM: After watching a few minutes of Skull & Bones which looks…decent, I guess, now Elijah Wood is on stage talking about Transference. SO MANY CELEBRITIES UBISOFT.

1:58 PM: I’m not sure how to describe Trasnference. It looks trippy. I’ll post a trailer later.

2:00 PM: So they just showed Starlink which looks kind of like No Man’s Sky meets Star Fox. Cool!

2:01 PM: Seriously, for a second I thought this was a totally revamped No Man’s Sky. Now, watching it more they even have the sound effects from Star Fox. Wait…Star Fox is in the game. Which means this is coming to the Nintendo Switch.

2:03 PM: Yves Guillemot is on stage now. They’re talking about having Star Fox in Starlink. High fives are being given to Nintendo. I’ll say this, Starlink looks way better than the last Star Fox game. Oh, and now Shigeru Miyamoto is charming us all with his adorable smile.

2:04 PM: Guillemot just gave Miyamoto a model of the Starlink ship.

2:05 PM: Starlink launches on October 16th on PC, PS4, Xbox One and with Star Fox on Nintendo Switch.

2:06 PM: It occurs to me that Starlink kind of looks like No Man’s Sky with actual content. Like combat and story. Okay, now the For Honor guys are on stage.

2:07 PM: The PC Starter Edition of For Honor will be free going forward.

2:09 PM: They’re showing off new For Honor content. “Marching Fire’ DLC looks like it’s adding Chinese characters.

2:12 PM: Castle Siege is coming to For Honor. A new mode along with the new Chinese faction. A pretty hefty amount of new content. I suppose I need to give this game a spin again now that’s dedicated servers and has a year or more of TLC under its belt. Honestly, it just didn’t do it for me at launch.

2:14 PM: Showing off The Crew 2 which you can pre-download now for the upcoming open beta. Looks like we have cars, boats and planes this time around.

2:16 PM: Okay, now they’re showing off a game set in ancient Greece. What could it be???

2:18 PM: The first Assassin’s Creed Odyssey trailer looks great. Looks a lot like Origins, which we already knew. But I’m still stoked for this setting.

2:21 PM: You can play as a male or female protagonist.

2:22 PM: Ubisoft has apparently completely changed how they tell stories in this franchise now. There are now dialogue options with different conversational results. They’re using Socrates as an example. Which, yeah, that’s a good choice.

2:23 PM: So Socrates dates this right in the Pelopponesian War as speculated. They’re showing off actual gameplay now.

2:24 PM: The game looks gorgeous. Even prettier than Origins. The setting, understandably, looks very similar. Just more Greek and less Egyptian, though the two locations have a lot of shared history.

2:30 PM: Okay for some reason my last couple of updates didn’t go through. This is a long gameplay trailer that you’ll just want to watch later. Combat looks very similar to Origins, but there’s some large scale combat that’s new. And it looks like magic will definitely be a part of the game in some form, so Ubisoft is really running with that. It looks good. I’m excited.

2:31 PM: Ok good, that last one went through. Weird. Anyways, the show is wrapping up. 1.5 hours is a long presser, so I’m glad they’re not dragging it out any longer. This was a pretty decent presser, with lots of gameplay footage and cool trailers. Some cheesy bits but nothing too terrible. Nothing EA Play terrible!

I’ll have more in-depth looks at some of these games in the near future. I need to take a closer look at all these trailers and footage and will put together some more comprehensive posts. Lots of cool stuff coming up from Ubisoft.

Thanks for reading along!

The post-show is now on and they’re showing off The Division 2 demo that is playable on the E3 show floor this week.

U.S. publishes details of ZTE settlement, ban not yet lifted

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – ZTE Corp’s (000063.SZ) settlement with the U.S. Commerce Department that would allow China’s No. 2 telecommunications equipment maker to resume business with U.S. suppliers was made public on Monday, days after the company agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, overhaul its leadership and meet other conditions.

FILE PHOTO: A ZTE smart phone is pictured in this illustration taken April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Illustration/File Photo

But the ban on buying U.S. parts, imposed by the department in April, will not be lifted until the company pays the fine and places $400 million more in escrow in a U.S.-approved bank, the agency said.

ZTE, whose survival has been threatened by the ban, secured the lifeline settlement from the Trump administration last Thursday.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Sunday that President Donald Trump agreed to lift the ban as a personal favor to the president of China.

ZTE must replace the boards of directors of two corporate entities within 30 days, according to a 21-page order signed June 8 and published on Monday on the Commerce Department website along with the settlement agreement.

All members of ZTE’s leadership at or above the senior vice president level also must be terminated, along with any executive or officer tied to the wrongdoing.

ZTE pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to evade U.S. embargoes by selling U.S. equipment to Iran. The ban was imposed after the company lied about disciplining some executives responsible for the violations. ZTE then ceased major operations.

On June 1, Reuters exclusively reported on the monetary penalty and other terms demanded to reverse the ban. Reuters on Tuesday revealed that ZTE had signed a preliminary agreement with the Commerce Department. [L2N1T2280]

Under the settlement, ZTE will pay a total civil penalty of $1.7 billion, including $361 million already paid as part of a March 2017 agreement, the $1 billion fine and the $400 million that will go in escrow.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Sandra Maler and Richard Chang

Elon Musk Says Tesla Self-Driving Features Will Start Arriving in August

Tesla CEO Elon Musk disclosed on Twitter Sunday that the company plans to roll out its “Version 9” software in August of this year, and that the update will “begin to enable full self-driving features.”

The phrasing here is key. Musk is not promising that Teslas will become fully autonomous in August, only that there will be activation of a subset of features that will eventually add up to full autonomy. And while cars produced since October of 2016 have all the hardware Tesla says is necessary for self-driving, enabling that hardware requires paying a total of $8,000 in optional fees for many Tesla vehicles.

It’s too early to say what those specific features might be, but the announcement comes as a bit of a surprise, given the dinged reputation of Tesla’s self-driving tech at the moment. Despite its name, Tesla’s existing Autopilot technology is not true self-driving capability, but a set of advanced safety features that have also helped Tesla gather data for training its self-driving software. Autopilot has been involved in a handful of wrecks lately, including at least two in which preliminary reports suggest Autopilot itself may have been at fault.

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Media coverage of the most recent crash triggered a weekslong Twitter crusade against the press by Musk, who argued that coverage of Autopilot-linked wrecks ignored the larger fact that such features were already safer than unassisted driving. The negative coverage of Autopilot, combined with ongoing challenges with Model 3 production, battered Tesla’s stock, though it has recovered some losses this month.

Setting a firm date for the start of the self-driving rollout suggests Musk remains very confident in his tech—but his careful phrasing in the offhand tweet leaves a huge escape clause. Individual self-driving “features” may amount to little more than further enhancements of Autopilot. There’s still no clear deadline for when a Tesla will be able to fulfill the company’s promise that the cars will take trips “with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat.”

And continuing a piecemeal, step-by-step transition towards full autonomy, while a good way to build on steady progress, could actually increase Tesla’s crash-related headline risk. That’s because, according to many experts, autonomous features are riskiest when human drivers have to maintain attention even while they don’t have full control—that is, with mid-capability systems. Several Tesla crashes have, according to both the company and government investigators, been caused by drivers placing too much faith in Autopilot, taking their hands off the steering wheel and their eyes off the road. Continually touting further self-driving ‘features’, without actually activating full autonomy—even while reducing the intensity of Autopilot attention reminders—might be inviting more of the same.

Rights group hits Amazon, Foxconn over China labor conditions

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. watchdog group criticized Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and contract manufacturer Foxconn over what it described as harsh working conditions at a plant in China that makes the retail giant’s Echo Dot smart speaker and Kindle e-reader.

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon.com Inc driver stands next to an Amazon delivery truck in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File photo

The 94-page report by New York-based China Labor Watch cited excessive hours, low wages, inadequate training and an overreliance on “dispatch” or temporary workers in violation of Chinese law at the Hengyang Foxconn plant in Hunan province.

Taiwan-based Foxconn, known formally as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW), is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and employs more than a million people.

Foxconn, which also makes Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPhones, came under fire in 2010 for a spate of suicides at plants in China. Foxconn pledged to improve working conditions.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors are seen at a Foxconn booth at the World Intelligence Congress in Tianjin, China May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

China Labor Watch said its nine-month investigation found that about 40 percent of workers at the plant were dispatch workers, far exceeding the 10 percent limit under Chinese law. Dispatch workers were paid at the same rate for regular and overtime hours, rather than time and a half as required, said China Labor Watch Program Officer Elaine Lu.

“They were underpaid,” Lu said. “That’s illegal.”

Dispatch workers earned 14.5 yuan ($2.26) per hour, the report said. Workers also put in more than 100 overtime hours per month during peak season, far more than the 36 hours allowed by law, and some worked for 14 consecutive days.

Amazon said in a statement it audited the factory in March and found “two issues of concern.”

“We immediately requested a corrective action plan from Foxconn,” Amazon said, adding it is monitoring Foxconn’s response and “compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct. We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved.”

Amazon did not say what the issues were or whether they had been addressed.

Foxconn said in an emailed statement that it “works hard to comply with all relevant laws and regulations” where it operates and conducts regular audits. “If infractions are identified, we work to immediately rectify them,” it said.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Reuters Beijing bureau; Editing by Chris Reese

Quit or Commit?

There’s a fatal flaw in how many small business owners take my idea of working “on” their business and turn that into challenges they never thought about.   Simply put, they download the principles that I put forth in The E-Myth Revisited and replace their obsessive behavior as Technicians with manic behavior as Managers.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Why?

Because these same small business owners have never stopped to ask themselves one thing: “Is this business actually worth saving?”

My experience tells me that it isn’t.

The facts – that nearly 90% of all small businesses will close in less than five years – tell me the same thing.

No amount of systemization, processes, standards, and procedures can make a bad business idea flourish – and that’s why you need to ask yourself if the company is even viable.

When you quit your job as an employee, did you jump into ownership of a business that did the same technical work you had been doing?  Again, forty years of working with small business owners tells me that is exactly what you did, and now, as you try to raise the bar – and your income level, you’re floundering.

You’re dumping money into marketing and social media, you’re writing manuals and systems, and all the while, your business model – the dream you once had for entrepreneurship – has fatal flaws.

You opened a tractor dealership where there are no farmers.

A restaurant on a dirt road outside a small town.

You’re selling software no one buys.

I want you to stop, today, and actually think about your small business:  how big can it actually get?  Quit making phone calls, quit cleaning the windows, and actually think about what success looks like to you – is it $100,000 in sales?  $250,000? 

The number isn’t important, but today – right now, in fact – you need to determine how much your business model can actually produce.  Realistically.  Honestly. 

Is this business worth continuing to build?

Those are tough words, but the facts are still the facts: small businesses fail because the owner never understood what they were doing when they opened the doors – they were, as I’ve said many times, really just “Technicians suffering from an Entrepreneurial Seizure.”

So, run the numbers.  Do the math.  Make the decision. 

Why continue to push a rock up the hill, only to have it roll over you?

There is a better way, and that better way is to understand that what you tried to build wasn’t what you needed to build. 

Now, if you ran those numbers and the business actually could produce positive results and cash flow, the next question you need to answer is just as simple as the first one, “do I want to do this anymore?”

Harsh?  Yes.  But again, no one is asking that.  We’ve come to think of entrepreneurs as some larger-than-life egocentric Superman who, by sheer force of will, can make new businesses flourish through simple Hard Work and Sticking With It and nothing could be farther from the truth.

Entrepreneurship is a learned skill and a process and small businesses fail because small business owners don’t know and don’t follow that process.  Think I’m lying?  Think again. 

Your “superman” entrepreneur – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ray Kroc, Jeff Bezos – they didn’t succeed because they were especially gifted business people, they succeeded because they devoutly believed in what they were doing and that devotion to their dreams allowed them to find and interface with the people who could further those dreams. 

How many people does it take to make an iPhone?

A Quarter Pounder?

To ship your purchase from China to your home?

Take stock of your business, take heed of its shortcomings, and realize that maybe – just maybe – you’ve forgotten what it was that made you want to own your own company in the first place. 

Sound pessimistic?  Not at all!  In fact, right now, I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in years.  Why?  You’ll find out in the next column.

See How This Hospital Uses Artificial Intelligence To Find Kidney Disease

The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare continues to rise.

According to a June 2018 ABI Research report, the number of patient monitoring devices, which also includes AI for home-based preventative healthcare) that use data to train AI models for predictive analytics will be 3.1 million in 2021, up from 53,000 in 2017. That connectivity is predicted to save hospitals around $52 billion in 2021.

“We now have exponential increases in digital healthcare data due to the internet, electronic health records, personal health records, cell phones, wearable devices, digital medical devices, sensors and many other factors,” said Drew Gantt. partner and co-chair, Healthcare, Venable LLP. “This data will fuel algorithmic solutions, clinical decision support tools, and visual tools in the near term.”

Gantt says that healthcare businesses should focus on using AI technology to solve problems, uncover value, promote their mission and create competitive advantage rather than merely using it for technology’s sake or to have the latest thing.

Mount Sinai Hospital in New York announced a partnership on June 1, 2018, with the AI healthcare startup, RenalytixAI, to create an AI tool that identifies patients at the hospital who are at risk for advanced kidney disease. 

In 2017, the Global Kidney Health Atlas reported that 1 in 1o people worldwide has chronic kidney disease. And, a patient with kidney disease traditionally won’t begin treatment until dialysis is needed.

Mount Sinai and RenalytixAI will put more than three million patient health records into the AI tool to identify at-risk patients. By automating the process of analyzing large volumes of data, the team hopes that this will help reduce diagnostic errors, expedite detection and free hospital staff to focus on care. Both parties indicate they hope to commercialize the new AI product Q2 2019. 

“By partnering with a major healthcare system like Mount Sinai, we can really define the clinical impact of AI-driven products in kidney disease,” said James McCullough, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, RenalytixAI. “We can also focus on developing the reimbursement and regulatory pathways critical for adoption across health networks with large at-risk diabetes and minority populations.”

RenalytixAI is a spinout of EKF Diagnostics, a Cardiff-based point-of-care diagnostic company with a biomarker portfolio, which transferred its sTNFR biomarker to the company.

Blockchain Is Here to Stay. Here Are 3 Ways You Can Use It in Your Business

You have certainly heard of the “Blockchain Revolution.”  “Blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” and Bitcoin are all over the news.

You may be intrigued, you may be horrified, or you may feel some of both.

But you can’t afford to ignore major trends in new technology. Like it or not, blockchain is here to stay. And it will have the power to enable your business like never before.

For the moment, blockchain is in its nascent phase — think of the internet in 1996. It’s inaccessible to most non-technical people, except for Bitcoin and some of the gaming applications like cryptokitties. So it’s the perfect time to learn. You have time to get up to speed about blockchain before it represents a threat to your business. And when the technology matures you will be prepared to capitalize on it.

Once you delve into this topic you will find that blockchain will fuel much more than the over-hyped cryptocurrency market. Blockchain technology will ultimately give rise to a host of applications which will become very useful once the technology and infrastructure has evolved.

So the one thing you cannot afford to do is ignore blockchain. Instead, educate yourself about it.

First, the basic primer about Blockchain: Blockchain is a distributed, decentralized ledger based on “blocks,” which is a record of a transaction. Multiple blocks are strung together to form a “blockchain.” Information on the blockchain is encrypted — it remains anonymous and secure. Individuals retain ownership of their personal information and also be “authenticated” without giving up that privacy.

Here are three ways that blockchain will eventually transform your business. 

1. Seamless Payments

A few years ago a local business sent someone to clean my couch. He said the company would invoice me. Several months later I realized they had never sent me an invoice. It took me three phone calls to get them to take my money. 

Any decent invoicing system would solve the problem of not sending out customer invoices. Using a system on the blockchain will significantly enhance this process. It will enable seamless payments, straight to your mobile digital wallet, as soon as the service is completed or the product delivered.

Seamless payments will also extend to the ability to pay contractors, employees, and vendors  in any currency. Payments will go directly into the receivers’ digital wallets, eliminating the need for administration and allowing people and companies to get paid faster. Since the payment can be sent in any currency this allows access to services and employees anywhere in the world.

To get a taste for this, check out Bitwage, a blockchain powered international wage payment processing company or PayStand which allows companies to track invoices and payments.

2. Decentralized Marketplaces

Small and large merchants already have places to sell their goods and services — just look at Amazon.

But there are downsides to those marketplaces for businesses. Since they act as the trusted third party, they are in the middle of every transaction. That leads to high costs for the privilege of being there and lag time for businesses to get their money.

Ultimately, blockchain technology will enable marketplaces which allow businesses to list their goods and services with a small fee or none at all. District is a good example. Through the use of smart contracts District allows merchants to place their goods and services on this marketplace. It handles posting and listing, search filtering, payments and “reputation management” which means you can trust those on the network to pay you.

3. Finding Remote and Project Based Talent

How many times have you identified a specific project that you need to get done but none of your employees have skills or bandwidth to do it? That’s when you need to find someone you can hire for a discrete project with a specific deadline. “The Gig Economy” has transformed the way companies and workers relate to work. Blockchain helps companies to find temporary workers for specific projects, and enables “gig” workers to present themselves to opportunities seamlessly.  

One company that is building a marketplace for this using blockchain technology is Dock. Dock is a “decentralized data exchange protocol that lets people connect their profiles, reputations and experiences across the web with privacy and security.” That allows freelancers to be in control of their information and to easily apply for opportunities when they see them in job marketplaces or through HR. And it’s a clearing house for your business to find excellent talent for specific projects.

These are three examples of how blockchain technology may mature to help your business. Take the time to learn about blockchain today to help power your business tomorrow.

UK lawmakers have 'lost confidence' in TSB boss over IT crisis

LONDON (Reuters) – The chairman of TSB said on Thursday the bank’s chief executive, Paul Pester, had the full support of the board, after Pester came under attack from lawmakers over his handling of an IT crisis, casting doubt on his position.

FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed outside a branch of the TSB bank in central London March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

Parliament’s Treasury Committee said earlier on Thursday it had “lost confidence” in Pester and questioned whether he should remain in his post. The IT outage left thousands of customers without access to accounts and unable to make vital payments.

TSB Chairman Richard Meddings’ response suggested Pester would remain at the bank for now, noting Pester’s progress in resolving the IT issues.

“This progress has been achieved under the leadership of Paul Pester, who continues to have the full support of the TSB Board,” Meddings said in a statement on Thursday evening.

The politicians cannot directly influence whether Pester is sacked. That decision rests with the bank’s board.

In letters to Meddings, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, the chair of the Treasury Committee, Nicky Morgan, said the committee was expressing no opinion on who was responsible for the IT crisis but on Pester’s response afterwards.

“Since the IT problems at TSB began, its public communications have often been complacent and misleading. This tone has been set from the top,” Morgan said in a statement.

In her letter to Meddings, Morgan listed instances where the TSB boss had either omitted information or made statements the committee deemed inaccurate, and did not take opportunities to correct his statements.

“Whether intentionally or not, he has not been straight with the committee and … TSB’s customers,” she said.

Treasury Committee members called such public criticism of a serving bank CEO “unprecedented”.

The PRA and FCA declined to comment.

“I have never seen such unanimity in the Committee. Each and everyone came to the same conclusion,” said Labour party lawmaker and committee member John Mann on Twitter.

TSB’s Spanish owner, Sabadell, said earlier on Thursday the crisis had so far cost about 70 million pounds ($94 million), mainly from a waiver of overdraft fees and compensation for cases of alleged fraud linked to the IT problems.

Sabadell declined to comment on the lawmakers’ criticisms of Pester.

In his second appearance in front of the committee on Wednesday, Pester was forced by one lawmaker to admit he had been unaware of serious problems with the bank’s fraud helpline during his first appearance, where he said most issues had been resolved.

Additional reporting by Kirstin Ridley, editing by Edmund Blair, Larry King

U.S. says internet use rises as more low income people go online

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Internet use by Americans increased in 2017, fueled by a rise among people with lower incomes, a government report viewed on Wednesday by Reuters found.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) also reported that for the first time tablets were more popular than desktop computers, and that more households had a mobile data plan than wired broadband service. The results were to be publicly released later on Wednesday.

The survey results demonstrate the growing importance of the internet in everyday communication as the way consumers access content changes.

Among Americans living in households with family incomes below $25,000 per year, the survey found internet use increased to 62 percent in 2017 from 57 percent in 2015, while households earning $100,000 or more showed no change at 86 percent.

The gain of 13.5 million users was “driven by increased adoption among low-income families, seniors, African Americans, Hispanics, and other groups that have been less likely to go online,” the agency said.

David Redl, who heads NTIA, said in a statement that “while the trend is encouraging, low-income Americans are still significantly less likely to go online.”

The survey of Americans aged three and older conducted for the agency by the U.S. Census Bureau found that 78 percent used the internet in November 2017, up from 75 percent in July 2015, when the previous survey was conducted.

It found that in 2017, 64 percent of Americans used a smartphone, compared with 53 percent in 2015, and tablet use increased to 32 percent from 29 percent in 2015. At the same time, desktop computer use fell to 30 percent in 2017 from 34 percent in 2015.

Laptop use by Americans was unchanged at 46 percent, while those with Smart TV and TV-connected devices jumped to 34 percent in 2017 from 27 percent in 2015.

The survey involved 123,000 people in more than 52,000 U.S. households. It was the largest U.S. survey of computer and telecommunications use, the agency said.

The report found senior citizens have increased their internet usage since the last survey to 63 percent, up from 56 percent in 2015. Among Hispanics, 72 percent used the internet in 2017, up from 66 percent in 2015, the survey found.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has made “bridging the digital divide” a key focus. The FCC has said that 97 percent of Americans in urban areas have access to high-speed fixed service, while only 65 percent of Americans in rural areas have such access.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Apple's Tim Cook Takes Aim at Facebook's Privacy Issues

Apple CEO Tim Cook took some more not-so-veiled shots at Facebook in a nationally televised interview Monday evening.

Speaking to CNN, Cook said he generally favors corporate self-regulation instead of government-imposed regulations. But when it comes to online privacy, self-regulation clearly isn’t working and the government may need to step in, he said.

“You have to ask yourself, so what form of regulation might be good,” Cook said. He continued: “I think the privacy thing has gotten totally out of control.”

Cook has repeatedly criticized Facebook in recent months over how much data it collects on consumers and what it does with that information. For example, when asked about how he would have handled the Cambridge Analytica scandal— in which the data on up to 87 million Facebook users was leaked to a data-analytics company linked to President Donald Trump — Cook said, “I wouldn’t be in that situation.”

Apple’s launching new features that will limit the data Facebook can collect

His comments on CNN followed the opening of Apple’s annual WWDC developer conference earlier in the day in San Jose.

At the conference, company officials announced numerous new features for its devices that seemed intentionally designed to restrict the amount of data Facebook in particular can collect on Apple users and to help those users limit the amount of time they spend on their devices, especially with Facebook’s apps.

Apple has repeatedly tried to distinguish itself from Facebook, Google, and the other tech giants by emphasizing its stated commitment to privacy. Unlike those companies, advertising is a small piece of Apple’s business, and it generally doesn’t collect as much detailed information on its users as they do.

Cook played up that angle again in the interview, painting as nefarious the data collection done by Facebook and other ad-based businesses.

“I think most people are not aware who’s tracking them, how much they’re being tracked, and the sort of the large amounts of detailed data that are out there about them,” he said.

Facebook officials have fired back at Cook in recent months, arguing that the company’s advertising business allows it to offer its service for free and its data collection helps it offer ads that are actually of interest to individual users.

In the interview, Cook said that he had been testing out the new features Apple has designed to allow customers to monitor their phone usage, he found that he himself was using his phone more than he should.

Cook reiterated his support for DACA

In addition to taking shots at Facebook, Cook also reiterated his support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. That program, which protected undocumented people who arrived in the US as children from being deported, was canceled by Trump in September. Cook and other tech leaders have been urging Congress to reinstate it.

“Congress needs to fix DACA, and fix DACA means allowing everyone to stay in this country and stop this ridiculous discussion that people brought here as kids shouldn’t be allowed to stay here,” he said.

Cook also weighed in on the incipient trade war that the Trump administration appears to be launching against China, the European Union, Mexico, and other countries. Despite the administration’s announcement last week that it would now apply its previously announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the EU, Mexico, and Canada, Cook said he was “optimistic” a trade war could be averted.

“No one will win from that. It will be lose-lose,” he said. “When the facts are so clear like that, I think both parties will see that and be able to work things out.”

Regardless of how those trade tensions end up, Cook said he didn’t think the iPhone — by far Apple’s most important product — won’t be caught in the crossfire and prices won’t rise on it as a result.

“I don’t think the iPhone will get a tariff on it,” he said.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Earnings Preview: What To Expect From Broadcom On Thursday

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

IRVINE, CA, THURSDAY, MAY 28: Broadcom Corp. offices are shown May 28, 2015 in Irvine, California. The company has agreed to be acquired by Avago Technologies Inc. for $37 billion in cash and stock, creating a giant in the business of supplying the technological infrastructure behind a range of common products, from smartphones to wireless networks to cloud computing. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Broadcom Inc. is scheduled to report earnings after Thursday’s close. The stock hit a record high of $285.68/share in 2017 and is trading near $256/share. The stock is prone to big moves after reporting earnings and can easily gap up if the numbers are strong. Conversely, if the numbers disappoint, the stock can easily gap down. To help you prepare, here is what the Street is expecting:

Earnings Preview: 

Broadcom is expected to earn $4.75/share on $5.00 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, the so-called Whisper number is $4.86. The Whisper number is the Street’s unofficial view on earnings.

Company Profile & Various Businesses:

Here is a brief company profile courtesy of Thomson Reuters Eikon:

Broadcom Inc., formerly Broadcom Limited, incorporated on March 3, 2015, is a designer, developer and global supplier of a range of semiconductor devices with a focus on digital and mixed signal complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-based devices and analog III-V based products. The Company operates through four segments: Wired Infrastructure, Wireless Communications, Enterprise Storage and Industrial & Other. It offers a range of products that are used in end-products, such as enterprise and data center networking, home connectivity, set-top boxes (STBs), broadband access, telecommunication equipment, smartphones, data center servers and storage systems, factory automation, power generation and alternative energy systems, and electronic displays. Its product portfolio ranges from discrete devices to complex sub-systems that include multiple device types, and also includes firmware for interfacing between analog and digital systems. Its products include mechanical hardware that interfaces with optoelectronic or capacitive sensors.

Competition:

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Amazon’s Alexa Has A Clear Favorite – and Some Savage Analysis – for the NBA Finals

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is a handy, seamless way to listen to music and find out about the weather. As the NBA finals head into tonight’s Game 2 between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, though, the voice assistant is also dabbling in sports analysis.

If you ask Alexa “Who will win the NBA Finals this year,” it gives you the following dissertation:

“Even with both conference finals going to game 7, these playoffs were over before they even started. I think the Warriors will win the playoffs pretty handily, and the rest of the league will spend the off-season trying to figure out what they will do to damper the dynasty.”

Yes, savage. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Alexa is showing some bias – the Warriors’ home base in Oakland is much closer than the Cav’s HQ to both Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and to Silicon Valley, which you might call Alexa’s spiritual home. But Alexa’s stance is also shared by most NBA analysts (and, if the memes are any indicator, LeBron himself).

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Of course, it’s deeply misleading to say that “Alexa” has any opinions at all. While the voice assistant incorporates an array of what are known as “limited” or “weak” artificial intelligence functions, such as search and natural language processing, it doesn’t have any more opinions, emotions, or sports analysis skills than your laptop (or, for that matter, your refrigerator). Those are the realm of human-like “general” A.I., which we won’t see for nearly 20 years, at the very least.

That becomes clear if you ask Alexa a more nuanced or specific question. Ask “Alexa, who will win Game 2 of the NBA finals?” and you get the same spiel about the series as a whole. Ask “Who will be NBA MVP this season?” and the machine draws a blank. Ask “Who will be MVP of the NBA Playoffs?” and you’ll be treated, for some reason, to a summary of Game 1.

Most likely, the scripted pro-Warriors response was plugged in manually by Amazon’s Alexa team. The Game 1 report that Alexa spits out in response to almost any other Finals-related query might have been scraped from news feeds by a more automated process, similar to the way Alexa finds and reads the news or stock reports.

Fortune has reached out to Amazon for more details about their creation’s anti-Cleveland bias. But don’t worry – Alexa won’t be replacing Jeff Van Gundy on the mic anytime soon.