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Professor Mauro Ferrari, president of the European Research Council (ERC), claimed red tape and internal politics hindered his ability to take swift and comprehensive action against the pandemic. | 4/8/20

Google shared new data on Friday showing how visits to movie theaters and public transportation centers, among other locations, have plunged in recent weeks, as stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus outbreak have led to a significant decrease in activity.

The data looks at how people are moving around in 131 countries, with March travel being compared to a baseline average set between January and February of this year.  (China is not included in Google’s report.) In the U.S., where more than 90% of Americans are under some form of restricted travel order, a few things immediately jump out: there’s been a 47% countrywide drop in visits to “retail and recreation” spots, which includes movie theaters, restaurants, shopping centers, museums and theme parks. Public transportation has seen an even bigger decline, with Google reporting a 51% plunge in trips to subway, bus, and train station hubs.

As expected with millions of people being compelled to suddenly work from home, there’s been a 38% decrease in office visits, Google found. Interestingly, the amount of time people are spending at home hasn’t increased as much as you might expect, with Google’s “residential” category seeing only a 12% increase.

Also Read: These March 1 vs April 1 Memes Capture the Ugly Truth of Social Isolation

Here’s how the remaining two categories broke down in the U.S.:

– 22% drop in grocery store and pharmacy visits

– 19% decline in trips to parks

New York, which has become the epicenter for COVID-19 in America, has seen an even starker drop in travel compared to the U.S. overall:

– 62% drop in retail and recreation

– 68% drop in transit hub visits

– 46% drop in workplace visits

– 47% drop for parks

– 32% drop in grocery and pharmacy visits

– 16% increase in time spent at home

California, which was relatively proactive with its COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, has seen a 50% drop in retail since the earlier this year. Public transit in the state has dropped 54%, and time spent at the workplace has declined 39%; time spent at parks has also dropped nearly 40%, and grocery store visits have dropped 24%.

While the decrease in activity is apparent in North America, other countries have seen steeper declines. In Italy and Spain, the two European countries hit hardest by the pandemic, Google reported both have seen a 94% decline in retail and recreation activity. In the United Kingdom, that figure is at 85%.

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James (Jon) Castle - 7 December 1950 to 12 January 2018

Over four decades Captain Jon Castle navigated Greenpeace ships by the twin stars of ‘right and wrong’, defending the environment and promoting peace. Greenpeace chronicler, Rex Weyler, recounts a few of the stories that made up an extraordinary life.

Captain Jon Castle onboard the MV Sirius, 1 May 1996

James (Jon) Castle first opened his eyes virtually at sea. He was born 7 December 1950 in Cobo Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey, UK. He grew up in a house known locally as Casa del Mare, the closest house on the island to the sea, the second son of Robert Breedlove Castle and Mary Constance Castle. 

Young Jon Castle loved the sea and boats. He worked on De Ile de Serk, a cargo boat that supplied nearby Sark island, and he studied at the University of Southampton to become an officer in the Merchant Navy. 

Jon became a beloved skipper of Greenpeace ships. He sailed on many campaigns and famously skippered two ships during Greenpeace’s action against Shell’s North Sea oil platform, Brent Spar. During his activist career, Jon spelt his name as "Castel" to avoid unwanted attention on his family.

Right and wrong

Jon had two personal obsessions: he loved books and world knowledge and was extremely well-read.  He also loved sacred sites and spent personal holidays walking to stone circles, standing stones, and holy wells.  

As a young man, Jon became acquainted with the Quaker tradition, drawn by their dedication to peace, civil rights, and direct social action. In 1977, when Greenpeace purchased their first ship - the Aberdeen trawler renamed, the Rainbow Warrior - Jon signed on as first mate, working with skipper Peter Bouquet and activists Susi Newborn, Denise Bell and Pete Wilkinson.

In 1978, Wilkinson and Castle learned of the British government dumping radioactive waste at sea in the deep ocean trench off the coast of Spain in the Sea of Biscay. In July, the Rainbow Warrior followed the British ship, Gem, south from the English coast, carrying a load of toxic, radioactive waste barrels. The now-famous confrontation during which the Gem crew dropped barrels onto a Greenpeace inflatable boat, ultimately changed maritime law and initiated a ban on toxic dumping at sea.

After being arrested by Spanish authorities, Castle and Bouquet staged a dramatic escape from La Coru?a harbour at night, without running lights, and returned the Greenpeace ship to action. Crew member Simone Hollander recalls, as the ship entered Dublin harbour in 1978, Jon cheerfully insisting that the entire crew help clean the ship's bilges before going ashore, an action that not only built camaraderie among the crew, but showed a mariner's respect for the ship itself. In 1979, they brought the ship to Amsterdam and participated in the first Greenpeace International meeting.

In 1980 Castle and the Rainbow Warrior crew confronted Norwegian and Spanish whaling ships, were again arrested by Spanish authorities, and brought into custody in the El Ferrol naval base.

The Rainbow Warrior remained in custody for five months, as the Spanish government demanded 10 million pesetas to compensate the whaling company. On the night of November 8, 1980, the Rainbow Warrior, with Castle at the helm, quietly escaped the naval base, through the North Atlantic, and into port in Jersey.

In 1995, Castle skippered the MV Greenpeace during the campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and led a flotilla into New Zealand to replace the original Rainbow Warrior that French agents bombed in Auckland in 1985.

Over the years, Castle became legendary for his maritime skills, courage, compassion, commitment, and for his incorruptible integrity. "Environmentalism: That does not mean a lot to me," he once said, "I am here because of what is right and wrong. Those words are good enough for me."

Brent Spar   Action at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North Sea, 16 June 1995

One of the most successful Greenpeace campaigns of all time began in the summer of 1995 when Shell Oil announced a plan to dump a floating oil storage tank, containing toxic petroleum residue, into the North Atlantic. Castle signed on as skipper of the Greenpeace vessel Moby Dick, out of Lerwick, Scotland. A month later, on 30 April 1995, Castle and other activists occupied the Brent Spar and called for a boycott of Shell service stations.

When Shell security and British police sprayed the protesters with water cannons, images flooded across world media, demonstrations broke out across Europe, and on May 15, at the G7 summit, German chancellor Helmut Kohl publicly protested to British Prime Minister John Major. In June, 11 nations, at the Oslo and Paris Commission meetings, called for a moratorium on sea disposal of offshore installations.

After three weeks, British police managed to evict Castle and the other occupiers and held them briefly in an Aberdeen jail. When Shell and the British government defied public sentiment and began towing the Spar to the disposal site, consumers boycotted Shell stations across Europe. Once released, Castle took charge of the chartered Greenpeace vessel Altair and continued to pursue the Brent Spar towards the dumping ground. Castle called on the master of another Greenpeace ship, fitted with a helideck, to alter course and rendezvous with him. Using a helicopter, protesters re-occupied the Spar and cut the wires to the detonators of scuppering charges.

One of the occupiers, young recruit Eric Heijselaar, recalls: "One of the first people I met as I climbed on board was a red-haired giant of a man grinning broadly at us. My first thought was that he was a deckhand, or maybe the bosun. So I asked if he knew whether a cabin had been assigned to me yet. He gave me a lovely warm smile, and reassured me that, yes, a cabin had been arranged. At dinner I found out that he was Jon Castle, not a deckhand, not the bosun, but the captain. And what a captain!"

With activists occupying the Spar once again, Castle and the crew kept up their pursuit when suddenly the Spar altered course, heading towards Norway. Shell had given up. The company announced that Brent Spar would be cleaned out and used as a foundation for a new ferry terminal. Three years later, in 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) passed a ban on dumping oil installations into the North Sea.

"There was no question among the crew who had made this possible, who had caused this to happen," Heijselaar recalls. "It was Jon Castle. His quiet enthusiasm and the trust he put into people made this crew one of the best I ever saw. He always knew exactly what he wanted out of a campaign, how to gain momentum, and he always found the right words to explain his philosophies. He was that rare combination, both a mechanic and a mystic. And above all he was a very loving, kind human being."


After the Brent Spar campaign, Castle returned to the South Pacific on the Rainbow Warrior II, to obstruct a proposed French nuclear test in the Moruroa atoll. Expecting the French to occupy their ship, Castle and engineer, Luis Manuel Pinto da Costa, rigged the steering mechanism to be controlled from the crow's-nest. When French commandos boarded the ship, Castle stationed himself in the crow's-nest, cut away the access ladder and greased the mast so that the raiders would have difficulty arresting him.

Eventually, the commandos cut a hole into the engine-room and severed cables controlling the engine, radio, and steering mechanism, making Castle's remote control system worthless. They towed the Rainbow Warrior II to the island of Hao, as three other protest vessels arrived. 

Three thousand demonstrators gathered in the French port of Papeete, demanding that France abandon the tests. Oscar Temaru - leader of Tavini Huiraatira, an anti-nuclear, pro-independence party - who had been aboard the Rainbow Warrior II when it was raided, welcomed anti-testing supporters from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and American Samoa. Eventually, France ended their tests, and atmospheric nuclear testing in the world's oceans stopped once and for all.

“Moral courage”

Through these extraordinary missions, Jon Castle advocated "self-reflection" not only for individual activists, but for the organisation that he loved. Activists, Castle maintained, required "moral courage." He cautioned, "Don't seek approval. Someone has to be way out in front... illuminating territory in advance of the main body of thought."

He opposed "corporatism" in activist organisations and urged Greenpeace to avoid becoming "over-centralised or compartmentalised."  He felt that activist decisions should emerge from the actions themselves, not in an office. We can't fight industrialism with "money, numbers, and high-tech alone," he once wrote in a personal manifesto. Organisations have to avoid traps of "self-perpetuation" and focus on the job "upsetting powerful forces, taking on multinationals and the military-industrial complex."

He recalled that Greenpeace had become popular "because a gut message came through to the thirsty hearts of poor suffering people ... feeling the destruction around them."  Activists, Castle felt, required "freedom of expression, spontaneity [and] an integrated lifestyle."  An activist organisation should foster a "feeling of community" and exhibit "moral courage." Castle felt that social change activists had to "question the materialistic, consumerist lifestyle that drives energy overuse, the increasingly inequitable world economic tyranny that creates poverty and drives environmental degradation," and must maintain "honour, courage and the creative edge."

Well loved hero

Susi Newborn, who was there to welcome Jon aboard the Rainbow Warrior way back in 1977, and who gave the ship its name, wrote about her friend with whom she felt "welded at the heart: He was a Buddhist and a vegetarian and had an earring in his ear. He liked poetry and classical music and could be very dark, but also very funny. Once, I cut his hair as he downed a bottle or two of rum reciting The Second Coming by Yeats."

Newborn recalls Castle insisting that women steer the ships in and out of port because, "they got it right, were naturals." She recalls a night at sea, Castle "lashed to the wheel facing one of the biggest storms of last century head on. I was flung about my cabin like a rag doll until I passed out. We never talked about the storm, as if too scared to summon up the behemoth we had encountered. A small handwritten note pinned somewhere in the mess, the sole acknowledgment of a skipper to his six-person crew: ‘Thank You.’” Others remember Castle as the Greenpeace captain that could regularly be found in the galley doing kitchen duty.

In 2008, with the small yacht Musichana, Castle and Pete Bouquet staged a two-man invasion of Diego Garcia island to protest the American bomber base there and the UK's refusal to allow evicted Chagos Islanders to return to their homes. They anchored in the lagoon and radioed the British Indian Ocean Territories officials on the island to tell them they and the US Air Force were acting in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions. When arrested, Castle politely lectured his captors on their immoral and illegal conduct.

In one of his final actions, as he battled with his failing health, Castle helped friends in Scotland operate a soup kitchen, quietly prepping food and washing up behind the scenes.  

Upon hearing of his passing, Greenpeace ships around the world - the Arctic Sunrise, the Esperanza, and the Rainbow Warrior - flew their flags at half mast.

Jon is fondly remembered by his brother David, ex-wife Caroline, their son, Morgan Castle, born in 1982, and their daughter, Eowyn Castle, born in 1984. Morgan has a daughter of eight months Flora, and and Eowyn has a daughter, Rose, who is 2.   

Plastics are in the air. Not only literally. Everyone's talking about plastic pollution and the need to take action.

You don’t need to be conducting a scientific research to see that plastic waste is invading our environment, specially our oceans. With up to 12 million tons of plastic entering the oceans every year it is not surprising that we find plastic everywhere, not only polluting the water and severely impacting marine species, but also accumulating in the food chain.

Plastic-Spitting Dragon Protests at Our Oceans Conference in Malta. 5 Oct. 2017.

And so people all over the world are building up a movement to transition to a society free of single-use plastic and the throw-away culture it entails. Whether it be by individual action and changing everyday habits, by signing petitions or by creating change in their communities and local businesses. 

The movement to #BreakFreeFromPlastic is on the rise and there’s no stopping it!

But where are we on policy? This week, the European Commission has released the European Plastics Strategy. A document that reflects the vision and the objectives of the Commission on this issue and that will be translated into measures and actions.

The European Union (together with countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement) is the second largest producer of plastic after China.

  • In the EU, 25.8 million tons of plastic waste are generated each year, 70% of which is incinerated or dumped in landfill. 
  • In the EU, 150,000 - 500,000 tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year.
  • It is estimated that between 75,000 and 300,000 tons of microplastics are released to the environment each year from EU countries. 

We need to change these numbers. It seems like this new EU strategy echoes this urgency and is certainly something worth praising. But once we get to the details, it seems to go down the usual path.

There’s certainly some good ideas, like treating microplastic ingredients (including cosmetic microbeads) as toxic pollution using the EU chemical regulation.  

And it sets a target that by 2030, 100% of plastic packaging in the EU market will be reusable or recyclable, with a first legislative proposal in 2018 to tackle some single use items. Promising!

But again we find a text too focused on recycling. It’s all over the place. While reduction and reuse is hardly mentioned. Their target won’t be achieved without reducing the production and consumption of plastic packaging and single-use items, much of which are unnecessary in the first place and have already existing alternatives waiting to be scaled up.

Deposit return schemes are increasingly being implemented. Bulk stores are blooming in many places, water fountains are coming back to cities and public places, and reusable items are coming into fashion. But alternatives need to be backed up by bold and ambitious political measures.

So if you are a European citizen, watch out for changes in our legislations and be ready to ask your national government to ensure single-use plastic item bans are fast tracked as the crisis is urgent and the EU process can take years. It’s a real opportunity for change and we mustn’t let it slip!

And even if you’re not in Europe, we still need your support. In a globalised world, whatever happens in the European region will have impact in other regions, through companies headquartered in the EU, trade or by simply, and most importantly, setting an example for others to follow that ambitious measures can be taken to phase-out single-use plastic.

While we wait for the next political move, you can still do your part. Whether it be refusing straws, bags, using refillable bottles or taking community action. Every step counts, no matter how big or small. Pick yours and start today to join the movement! We can all #BreakFreeFromPlastic!

Elvira Jiménez is EU Plastics Project leader with Greenpeace Spain

The 2020 Cannes Film Festival has extended deadlines and is still hoping to reschedule the May event for late June or early July — but in a Q&A posted on the official festival site on Thursday, Cannes organizers also conceded that this year’s festival could be canceled altogether.

“A postponement might be, we repeat, ‘might be,’ possible,” read the first answer in the nine-question Q&A. The festival, it added, “plays an essential role in the economy of world cinema. When the decision to cancel the event in May was considered, every stakeholder in the sector asked us not to give up on holding it this year.”

But at the same time, the festival admitted that it “one way of looking at the situation” to think that a rescheduling is unrealistic given the ongoing effects of the coronavirus in Europe and around the world. “We are working towards a deferred event, if at all possible,” it said. “And if it is not possible, we will accept that.”

Also Read: 2020 Cannes Film Festival Postponed Over Coronavirus Concerns

The Q&A also noted that festival staffers are currently working from home, including programmers who are screening films that have been submitted. The deadline for registering films will be extended by one month or more, until at least the end of May, while accreditation deadlines have been extended for about a month and a half.

The lineup of films, which was originally scheduled to be announced at a Paris press conference on April 16, will not take place on that date. If the festival is rescheduled, the lineup will be announced about one month prior to that date.

And the festival also admitted, “It would be absurd to fixate on the dates of a cultural event when the whole world is living through such a painful time.”

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Read the full Q&A here:


Because a postponement might be, we repeat, “might be”, possible. Although Cannes is mainly famous for its arts and media side, it also plays an essential role in the economy of world cinema. When the decision to cancel the event in May was considered, every stakeholder in the sector asked us not to give up on holding it this year.

We therefore decided, after a rapid, broad, national and international consultation, that it was necessary to investigate all routes which would allow a postponement rather than a simple cancellation. This applies to the whole Festival, including the Marché du Film, which is due to take place as part of the Festival, over the same dates.

No one knows what will happen in the near future, but Cannes must work towards solutions with the sector stakeholders who wish the event to take place. The Festival will therefore be acting in line with this perspective, while closely monitoring the changes in the global health situation. Ultimately, it is the public authorities (The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior, the Alpes-Maritimes regional authority, and the Cannes City Council) who will give the green light, just as they authorised us to announce a possible deferrment.


We made this announcement two months before the Festival. If you take the example of sport, the Monaco Grand Prix, which takes place during the Festival dates, was postponed on the same day. The spring cycling races in Belgium and France were postponed less than three weeks before they were due to begin. The European football championships were cancelled while already in progress.

The physical preparation (setting up, construction, etc.) of the Festival de Cannes begins one month before the event and had not begun in mid-March. We had until April 15th to evaluate the situation and we did so one month before that, although there were many who called on us to “stand firm”. It is not a matter of standing firm, but of analysing the situation with clarity and responsibility.

According to the professionals, for whom the festival is essential, the calendar used for May and the announcement of the deferral, three months in advance, was the most suitable one. In addition, on the subject of sport, our “athletes” are the artists and most of them are working. Our raw material is films, which we receive electronically. “Technically” (please take note the use of quotation marks), the selection process is taking place as usual.


Yes. It is above all important to remember the imperative nature of the measures in place: “stay at home”, “infection prevention measures” and “social distancing”. The Festival team is not contravening the rules. Our offices are closed and no one is to go out for work purposes.

Since the lockdown measures were announced, the Festival staff have worked remotely and continue to prepare for Cannes via written messages, telephone conversations and group chats.

As for screenings, the films now come via an internet link and are viewed by members of the selection committee in the context of the usual discussion which takes place at this time of year with artists and rights holders. Many remarks from professionals from all over the world are also coming to the fore through this exchange.


No. The traditional press conference announcing the selection will not take place on April 16th. If the Festival is confirmed for the end of June or beginning of July, it will take place around one month beforehand, in Paris, at a date which is yet to be arranged. The Festival will issue more information when circumstances permit.


Yes, accreditation applications will remain open. The various dates for registration have been extended by one-and-a-half months. The details will be updated on the website very soon.

All approved accreditations will remain valid in the case of any postponement.

Accreditations for the two sessions of “3 Days in Cannes” will also remain valid. The new dates of the sessions will be automatically sent out with the new dates of the Festival and people who are already accredited will simply need to confirm their registration for the new dates.


Yes, the Films Department has decided to extend the registration deadline by one month. The new cut-off date will be specified in due course. it will certainly be extended until the end of May. At the moment everything is open. And for any further information, contact:


That is one way of looking at the situation, but we will not take that view until the evidence compels us to abandon this year’s event. At the time of writing, the 2nd round of the Municipal Elections has been announced for June 21st and the Tour de France sets off on June 27th.

It is obviously not possible to give precise dates yet. We have decided to opt for the end of June because we cannot plan further ahead than that. The lockdown which France, as well as many other countries, is under is only in its second week and we will need time, patience, calm and goodwill before we know when we will come out of it. We will also need to show solidarity. It would be absurd to fixate on the dates of a cultural event when the whole world is living through such a painful time.

People count on us: from Japanese film distributors to Cannes café owners. When the moment comes for us to all get ourselves back on our feet,to welcome festival goers, show films, open the theatres to the entire world, meet the artists, the journalists, the professionals and welcome those for whom seeing the creation, distribution and production coming back to life is important, the Festival must be ready. The Festival staff have a duty and a mission to commit themselves to that, in the name of the entire international sector.

We are working towards a deferred event, if at all possible. And if it is not possible, we will accept that. Because we are acting with humility and discretion, without ever losing sight of the national and international health priorities caused by the crisis, nor of the difficulty and pain of the days in hospitals for patients and health professionals. We want to express our solidarity and our admiration for the health workers and for all those who, where ever they are, are giving their time, their energy and their empathy.

And our thoughts are in particular with three great filmmaking countries: Italy, Spain and Iran, who have been particularly hard hit by the epidemic.

We will provide further information as soon as possible.

We will be in touch very soon,

The Festival de Cannes Team

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Discovery revealed in an SEC filing on Tuesday that it recently borrowed $500 million from a revolving credit facility due to the uncertain economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

“On March 12, 2020, the Company drew down $500 million under the credit facility to increase its cash position and maximize flexibility in light of the current uncertainty surrounding the impact of COVID-19. The Company has upcoming corporate debt maturities in June 2020 of $600 million and in June 2021 of $640 million,” the company said in the filing.

The media giant also retracted its full-year outlook for 2020 that it gave to analysts in late February, pointing to “unprecedented economic uncertainty” surrounding the eventual impact from COVID-19, which has infected more than 300,000 people around the world.

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On Tuesday, the IOC officially postponed the Tokyo Olympics until next summer, for which Discovery’s Eurosport held the European TV rights in many countries.

On the positive side, Discovery said it was seeing increased TV ratings around the world while everyone is forced to isolate at home.

“As a result of the global pandemic, television viewing audiences around the globe have increased dramatically,” the company wrote. “As such, the Company has experienced an increase in ratings and delivery across many television viewing markets as many people are self-isolating at home. This is helping to offset attributed weakness from economic conditions, and the Company is evaluating the impact of improved ratings and delivery on its performance.”
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Disney+ is slashing its bandwidth utilization by 25% in European markets where the service will debut on March 24, the steaming service announced Saturday.

Walt Disney Co. chairman of direct-to-consumer & international Kevin Mayer released a statement explaining that the move is a response to a European Union government request that streamers switch from high definition to standard definition. Hopefully, the move will prevent the continent’s internet infrastructure from crashing, as millions of people stay home amid the coronavirus spread.

“In line with Disney’s longstanding commitment to act responsibly, we are responding to the request of European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to work together to ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure,” Mayer said.

“In the coming days, we will be monitoring Internet congestion and working closely with Internet service providers to further reduce bitrates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand,” he added. “We look forward to the launch of Disney+ and hope it will provide a much-needed respite for families in these challenging and trying times.”

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Disney+ is also delaying its launch in France until April 7.

“To our French fans, the Disney+ service is coming,” Mayer said, “but at the request of the French government, we have agreed to postpone the launch until Tuesday, 7 April 2020.” 

The move comes two days after a similar action by Netflix.

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The Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020 has been submitted by the U.S. Congress to the White House for signing into law. It has been sitting there for several days now, but there are obviously more important developments demanding attention than a law compelling the Executive Branch to develop a 5G security strategy within 180 days through public and Federal agency consultations that will be implemented by the NTIA.

Given that the implementation would occur by a new Administration rather than the present one, it is possible that the Act may never be signed. It may actually be a good option. Given the abysmal lack of understanding of even 5G basics anywhere in Washington and lack of expertise, it may be a long time before a minimally rational 5G strategy is possible. Another embarrassing 5G pronouncement out of Washington is not helpful for the nation. The actions are also arguably irrelevant for most of the world because the huge public-private collaborative activities like 3GPP and constellation of related bodies which have the expertise, continue to go about their work effectively every day.

What Does the Act Attempt to Accomplish?

Specifically, the Act calls for the development of a "strategy to ensure security of next generation wireless communications systems and infrastructure" by the President. That it requires the impossible, i.e., "ensure security," gives pause. You can lower risks, but not "ensure security." Additionally, the repeated focus on "wireless" throughout the Bill suggests a lack of understanding of 5G itself — especially given the omission of any definitions in the Act. The most significant if not revolutionary change about 5G is not that it employs more wireless bandwidth, but that all network architectures and services are virtualized, and its new low-latency protocols enable innovative applications. Indeed, seamless non-wireless 5G access known as 5th Generation Fixed (F5G) and Multi-access Edge Computing are core features of the infrastructure. This breadth of scope is underscored by the CableLabs standards organization's significant involvement in the 5G work for its constituent cable providers from the outset.

The Act is fairly simple — as it is divided into just two sections. The first section articulates three somewhat nationalistic objectives, followed by four "whole-of-government" "elements" that seem reasonable: 1) what's happening, 2) what are the risks and measures, 3) mitigation of risks and 4) ongoing activities. The last element includes a long-overdue emphasis on facilitating greater public-private sector engagement in ongoing global standards forums. The Act's second section articulates eighteen "national and economic security interests" Congress wants addressed in the strategy. Although somewhat US-centric, those 18 interests are not unreasonable.

Somewhat amusingly, the Act explicitly excludes nationalization of 5G networks as part of the strategy.

5G Obliviousness by Design?

What the Act conveniently ignores is the massive and intense activity of highly knowledgeable experts in industry and government agencies around the globe devoted to achieving those interests over more than eight years. That public-private activity was perfected through significant U.S. "whole-of-government" initiative for decades and been highly successful. It also proceeds through highly transparent activities by broad consensus and establishes capability requirements that are followed by the development of implementation specifications incrementally for each new 5G release. Anyone can readily see over a period of many years, exactly who is (or is not) engaging in the work through submitted contributions and collective decisions. Even passive participants are part of the records.

The assumption seems to be that the thousands of people and hundreds of organizations involved in that work over those years have insufficiencies or missed something and depreciates the value of global 5G collaboration work. The mode of that work is also highly collegial. That is, if any government agency, company or institute has a better idea on how to proceed among the many hundreds of studies and resulting specifications, they are free to contribute and even stop work and adoption of outputs. These groups also typically engage is substantial, constant pro-active outreach to dozens of other industry and intergovernmental bodies.

The only ones really missing here over the past two decades are the U.S. government agencies — almost all of them except to a limited extent, the national security community which has gone from active to passive participation.

A major deficiency in the 5G Act

The Act itself misses some fundamentals relating to the U.S. legal system — namely how the U.S. 5G infrastructure is going to meet all of the twelve security-related compliance requirements of every public communications infrastructure that are well-established in law. Security is a vague construct that encompasses all of these requirements in complex ways and consists of much more than just supply chain management. The order of these requirements, compiled by a legal-technical team in the Cyber Security Technical Committee to guide 5G work, suggests a relative level of importance.

  1. Availability
  2. Emergency and public safety communication
  3. Lawful interception
  4. Retained data
  5. Cyber Security
  6. Identity management
  7. Network management
  8. Operations control
  9. Support for persons with disabilities
  10. Lawful content control
  11. Personally Identifiable Information protection
  12. End-user content control

Each of these requirements — which are essential for any credible national security strategy — has been addressed in the enormous work ensuing in multiple global standards bodies and can be found in the requirement, studies, and technical specifications adopted for the various 5G releases.

Washington Ignored the Global Industry 5G Supply Chain Initiative

In the narrow area of 5G supply chain security, the U.S. government has been largely absent from the past eight years of extensive work in multiple global standards forums. In late 2012, a major initiative was launched — that included multiple bodies, especially the Common Criteria Control Board, 3GPP, and GSMA to tackle 5G supply chain management requirements. Shortly afterwards, major implement initiatives ensued both in 3GPP SA3 and GSMA — known respectively as SECAM & SCAS (Security Assurance Methodology & Security Assurance Specification) and NESAS (Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme). The world's principal equipment vendors were involved, and testing laboratory certification arrangements were put in place. Several U.S. government agencies were aware of these initiatives but chose to ignore them, notwithstanding repeated attempts to gain their involvement.

Now, years later, there is a realization in the U.S. government that 5G supply chain security is necessary, and collective flailing in Washington is underway. While Washington has been sleeping, the global public-private industry initiative produced ten SCAS work items for specifications covering different network equipment and service classes that have been completed or underway. The latest four were just adopted at last week's SA3 (Security) meeting, including 5G SCAS Enhancement for Rel. 17 and blessed at this week's 3GPP SA Plenary.

The FCC's recent banning order and White House enactments are shameful foolishness in light of the reality of what has ensued. They completely ignore extensive, well-designed global mechanisms for supply chain security in favour of nonsensical bans, and then wonder why the rest of the world has not followed.

U.S. Credibility Is at Stake

Some U.S. companies and organizations have been significantly engaged in the large-scale 5G security standards activities to varying degrees. Indeed, as one of the 3GPP partners, North American companies have been hosting a third of all the 5G meetings at different locations around the U.S. Some specialized 5G standards activities have been taken up by U.S. based standards bodies like OASIS and CableLabs. Many U.S. companies have been obviously absent — a trend over the past two decades caused by several factors — especially the lack of government leadership and encouragement. The Trump Administration's assault on 5G standards bodies last year just further impeded U.S. engagement as it was the exact opposite of what should have occurred.

Except for some specialized compliance requirement areas, the U.S. government's national security assets have been completely absent. At the same time, both European and Asian entities have consistently devoted significant assets in openly collaborating on requirements and implementation specifications and reaching consensus decisions.

What the Act also misses utterly is that the ongoing global collaboration is not a zero-sum game, and nations benefit enormously from their companies and experts collaborating on new technologies, concepts, and services, including security. One sees this almost every day in the many hundreds of contributed inputs to the 5G international standards development processes that result in new studies and specifications. However, it is usually European and Asian countries that are the 5G innovators, and you can see it in the new work items brought into multiple activities, such as those of ETSI and recent ITU-T SG 13 and SG17 meetings. The substantially diminished U.S. government engagement in any international 5G activities, combined with absurd statements, show Washington summits, and product banning, ultimately severely harms the nation's leadership stature as well as its enterprises and end-users.

Although the hope is slim, the U.S. has a new chance here to gain 5G credibility. If the White House does sign the 5G strategy Act, but it emerges as yet another narrow, myopic, nationalistic construct devoid of any understanding what 5G even is and the benefits of international collaboration; or fails to treat the full panoply of security requirements essential for national and extraterritorial deployment, the goals of the Act will not be achieved, and U.S. credibility will be further reduced.

Additional damage to our legal system will also occur if the report does not recognize and support the entire ecosystem of law that underpins a comprehensive "network security" construct. Failure to recognize and seek its implementation going forward would also render U.S. 5G infrastructure at risk. The rest of the world will be using 5G equipment and services subject to the globally adopted 5G supply chain security specifications and certifications, as well as regulatory requirements for meeting the entire ecosystem of security and system specifications. U.S. consumers and businesses are left holding the bag and bearing the costs with nothing but a ban on two vendors because of their corporate headquarters.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC | 3/19/20
MADRID — According to a study released Monday by GECA (Gabinete de Estudios de la Comunicación Audiovisual), Spanish TV consumption reached its highest ever levels over the weekend, fueled by the government lockdown aimed at slowing the further spread of COVID-19 across one of Europe’s hardest-hit territories. In a brief follow-up sent Wednesday morning, GECA […] | 3/18/20

Regal Cinemas became the first major American theater chain to announce the indefinite closure of all 543 of its locations nationwide to counter the spread of the coronavirus, with Showcase Cinemas doing the same hours later in an announcement from its parent company, National Amusements.

“At this time, we have made the difficult decision to close our theaters. We value our movie-loving customers and have no doubt we will be serving them again as soon as possible with a full slate of Hollywood blockbusters,” read a statement from Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Regal parent company Cineworld.

National Amusements will close all 32 of its Showcase Cinemas locations in five U.S. states starting on Monday night with plans to reopen on April 7. All tickets purchased in advance for future shows will be refunded and all accounts for the chain’s ticket subscription program will be placed on hold.

“Showcase Cinemas has worked very hard to provide the best moviegoing experience for our customers for nearly 85 years,” read a statement from National Amusements. “Our industry has weathered many difficult moments through the decades. Through these unprecedented times, we come to the same conclusion – people need and want to go to the movies. However, now is the time for public safety and to press pause on moviegoing.”

The closures come shortly after a White House press conference in which health officials recommended that the public avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, a drop from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s earlier recommendation of avoiding gatherings of more than 50 people. In accordance with those CDC guidelines, AMC Theaters announced earlier Monday that it would be capping all screenings at 50 tickets.

The move comes less than a week after a press release from the National Association of Theater Owners’ California/Nevada division assured the public that theaters would remain open in Santa Clara County for this past weekend as restrictions on public gatherings had not at the time pertained to movie theaters. But as government officials have called for more stringent social distancing policies to combat the spread of the coronavirus, analysts tell TheWrap that further widespread closures of American movie theaters are now expected, as has been the case throughout Europe and parts of Asia, including China, where theaters have been closed since late January.

Studios have responded to the crisis by indefinitely delaying the release of multiple major blockbusters such as Disney’s “Mulan,” MGM/Universal’s “No Time to Die,” and Universal’s “F9.” An exception has been the DreamWorks animated film “Trolls World Tour,” which Universal announced on Monday will be released day-and-date on digital home rental platforms as well as theatrically on April 10. The studio is also planning to make current theatrical releases like “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt” available for digital rental as early as Friday with a suggested price of $19.99 for a 48-hour rental period.

TheWrap will update this story as more theater closures are announced.

More to come…

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The global economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic has hit the U.S. box office as “Onward” has suffered the worst second weekend total drop in the 25-year history of Disney’s Pixar animation unit. The animated fantasy film has grossed just $10.5 million this weekend, a 74% drop from its $40 million opening.

That leaves “Onward” with a 10-day domestic total of $60.8 million and slim chances of even pushing that total to $100 million. Mid-March is usually a time when families take their kids out to the movies while they are on spring break, but many of those families are staying home as local and state governments in areas hardest hit by COVID-19 are applying increasingly stringent measures to contain the disease’s spread.

Overall, weekend numbers are set to be the lowest for the domestic box office in at least 20 years, and it’s likely to get worse next weekend as Paramount has removed “A Quiet Place Part II,” which was projected for at least a $60 million opening, from its March 20 release date while the virus is expected to spread. How bad that spread is will depend on whether the public follows calls for social distancing and stays home to reduce the possibility of community infection.

Also Read: Warner Bros' 'The Batman' Suspends Production Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

As the U.S. nears 3,000 confirmed cases of the virus, theaters in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are beginning to close; and lockdowns in European countries like Italy, France, Spain, Norway and Denmark have forced industry-wide shutdowns of cinemas there. Similar forced closures of theaters could happen in the U.S., particularly along the West Coast and in the Northeast if the virus isn’t contained. In the meantime, other theaters in those states as well as those on the West Coast are reducing capacity in their auditoriums to provide space between moviegoers.

COVID-19 has also impacted the box office fortunes of this weekend’s new releases. Lionsgate’s faith-based drama “I Still Believe,” the first production from Jon and Andrew Erwin’s new studio Kingdom Story Company, is expected to earn an opening weekend of $9.5 million from 3,250 screens. Strongest turnout for the film came from faith-based hot spots in the South and Midwest, where many states in those regions have yet to see widespread community spread of the virus.

It’s a glass-half-full result for Lionsgate and Kingdom. While the film’s estimates are below the $10-12 million that Lionsgate had projected and the $17.1 million opening earned by the Erwins’ 2018 breakthrough hit “I Can Only Imagine,” it is consistent with openings for the faith-based genre and is on track to turn a profit given the film’s reported $4 million production budget before marketing costs.

Also Read: All the Movies Suspended or Delayed Due to Coronavirus Pandemic (Updating)

The same is less likely to be said for Sony’s “Bloodshot,” which is estimated for a $9.3 million opening from 2,861 screens. The R-rated Vin Diesel film is unlikely to make back its reported $45 million budget between overseas theater closures and tepid reception. The film received a 31% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a B from audiences on CinemaScore.

The final new release, Universal/Blumhouse’s “The Hunt,” is being beaten this weekend by fellow studio release “The Invisible Man,” which made $6 million in its third weekend compared to a $5.3 million opening for “The Hunt.” Even in a normal market, “The Hunt” was going to be a tough sell with its story about affluent liberals hunting working-class conservatives for sport. The film had mixed reviews with 53% on Rotten Tomatoes while audiences gave the film a C+ on CinemaScore.

The virus has also hit the indie box office as Focus Features’ “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” only grossed an estimated $18,404 and a $4,601 per screen average from its four-screen release despite rave reviews from the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals and a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. Many indie films rely on platform releases in Los Angeles and New York to build word of mouth before gradual expansion into other major cities and eventually nationwide, and that option is now all but gone as moviegoers are encouraged to stay home to prevent spread of the virus.

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An unnamed journalist was denied access to a White House press briefing on Saturday after registering a fever at an entry checkpoint.

“According to the White House Medical Unit, the temperature was taken three times over a 15 minute period — all three registered above the @CDCgov 100.4 guidelines,” White House press secretary Katie Miller tweeted Saturday.

Miller’s tweet was a quote tweet of CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, who had written: “CNN White House Team: A journalist was denied entry into the press briefing after having a 99.9 fever. He was trying to get access to the briefing and was turned away and is being held by the press office on the White House driveway.”

Also Read: All the TV Productions Suspended or Delayed Due to Coronavirus Pandemic (Updating)

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

During the briefing from which the unnamed reporter was barred, journalists pressed President Donald Trump on why he hadn’t yet been tested for the coronavirus since he has interacted with multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, including two Brazilian delegates.

“I also took the test last night,” Trump responded, adding that it was sent to a government lab and the results would be available in a few days. He also said his temperature was taken before the press briefing.

Also Read: Coronavirus: The Canceled Events in Tech, Media, Politics and Entertainment (Updating)

POTUS also announced during the meeting with reporters that the European travel ban he implemented on Wednesday would now be extended to the U.K. and Ireland as of midnight Monday.

Before exiting the room, reporters shouted out, asking what his temperature was. The president said on his way out, “Totally normal.”

See Miller’s tweet below.

According to the White House Medical Unit, the temperature was taken three times over a 15 minute period – all three registered above the @CDCgov 100.4 guidelines.

— Katie Miller (@VPPressSec) March 14, 2020

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President Donald Trump said during a Saturday press briefing that he was tested Friday night for the coronavirus and that the European travel ban would be extended to the United Kingdom and Ireland as of midnight Monday.

During a news conference in the White House briefing room, reporters pressed the president as to why he hadn’t taken a test, considering he interacted with multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, including two Brazilian delegates.

Trump responded by saying he “took the test last night,” “only because the press is going crazy.” He added that it was sent to the lab and the results would be available in a few days. He also said his temperature was taken before the briefing.

Before exiting the room, reporters shouted out, asking what his temperature was. The president said on his way out, “Totally normal.”

Also Read: President Trump Declares Coronavirus Pandemic a National Emergency

Trump said on Friday that he would “probably” be tested, only for the White House doctor to issue a statement shortly thereafter explaining why he shouldn’t be tested or self-quarantine despite those interactions.

“The President’s exposure to the first individual was extremely limited (photograph, handshake), and though he spent more time in close proximity to the second case, all interactions occurred before any symptom onset,” Sean Conley, the physician to the president, wrote in the memo. “These interactions would be categorized as LOW risk for transmission per CDC guidelines, and as such, there is no indication for home quarantine at this time.” Conley continued: “Additionally, given the president himself remains without symptoms, testing for COVID-19 is not currently indicated.”

The extended travel ban will undoubtedly be an additional challenge for film and TV production, which is already burdened by the shutdown and postponement of productions as a precautionary measure due to the spread of coronavirus.

Wednesday, President issued a travel ban restricting travel from 26 countries in Europe in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions began Friday at midnight and will be in place for 30 days. The United Kingdom and Ireland were exempt from the restrictions, along with American citizens “who have undergone appropriate screenings,” the president said.

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President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency during a White House press conference on Friday.

“No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever,” Trump said, outlining increases in federal funding and broadening the abilities of the Department of Health and Human Services. All told, $50 billion has been made accessible to states and localities.

He also said that the federal government is working with private companies to tackle the virus, praising corporations like LabCorp and Roche for working on testing solutions, the launch of an online Google symptom screening form, and the opening of drive-thru testing at store like CVS, Target, Walmart and Walgreens. The president also waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies.

The national emergency declaration came two days after a national address in which Trump announced the United States will restrict travel from 26 countries in Europe in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

“Now we’re in a different phase,” Trump said Friday. “To unleash the full power of the federal government to this effort today, I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words.”

Also Read: Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Suspend All Concert Tours Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

The travel restrictions will begin Friday at midnight and will be in place for 30 days. The United Kingdom will be exempt from the restrictions, as will American citizens “who have undergone appropriate screenings,” the president said. The decision builds on the administration’s earlier move to restrict travel from China and Iran.

However, during the press conference, Trump said the U.K. may be added to the travel ban as numbers of coronavirus cases increase there.

When asked if he was responsible for closing the U.S. pandemic response team — which he did in 2018 — he responded, “I don’t know anything about that.”

When asked if he personally was tested after potential exposure, Trump replied, “Most likely, yeah. Fairly soon. We’re working out a schedule.”

The coronavirus spread has affected all American industries, from local businesses to sports to entertainment. TheWrap has been monitoring the canceled events in tech, media, politics and entertainment here. The Tribeca Film Festival, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020 Induction Ceremony and Coachella are among the events being postponed or canceled in reaction to the spread of the virus.

TV productions have been suspended or delayed, as have movies. Elsewhere, talk shows have forgone live studio audiences while Disneyland and other entertainment parks have announced closures, as has Broadway.

Consumers aren’t the only ones affected; the May upfronts — where networks present their programming slates — have all been canceled.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom, in accordance with new guidelines from the state’s Department of Public Health, is asking that all gatherings of more than 250 people be canceled throughout the state in an effort to curtail the spread of the covid-19 illness caused by the coronavirus.

This would include almost all sporting events, most concerts, many movie screenings, high volume workplaces, and many restaurants and bars, not to mention film premieres and large scale media events. Though not mandatory, Newsom called on Californians to follow the guidelines through at least the end of March.

The new guidelines, posted Wednesday night, are the strongest measures yet in the state’s efforts to contain the disease that has infected more than 150 Californians. Along with limiting gatherings to 250 people or less, the guidelines also call for measures like social distancing of at least 6 feet or more — and cancellation of events which cannot accommodate that distance, regardless of crowd size.

Also Read: Trump Bars All Travel From Europe - Except the UK - in Response to Coronavirus

“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know. That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday night. “Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical healthcare resources that your family may need a month from now. The people in our lives who are most at risk — seniors and those with underlying health conditions — are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”

Though it remains to be seen how many events will comply with the new guidelines, California already has a serious head start. Newsom’s announcement comes near the end of a wave of even cancellations due to fears about coronavirus, including the E3 Expo video game conference, originally scheduled for June, PaleyFest LA, which was to begin this Friday, and the entirety of the remaining NBA season.

The guidelines also come just hours after Donald Trump laid out the latest federal response to the coronavirus, which most notably includes a ban on travel from Europe — except, for some reason, the UK.

Also Read: Coronavirus: The Canceled Events in Tech, Media, Politics and Entertainment (Updating)

Read the full list of guidelines, and detailed explanations for how they can be followed, here.

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Wednesday’s episode of “The Late Show” was clearly filmed during the daytime, well before the absolutely crazy run of coronavirus news that hit the country starting around 9:00 p.m. ET (more on that momentarily).

But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything topical, by which we mean coronavirus-related, for Stephen Colbert to talk about. IN his monologue, he talked about the press conference Mike Pence held on Tuesday, in which one of the senior scientists heading up the government’s response to the plague pretty much said America needs to get ready for things to really suck. “As a nation, we can’t be doing the kind of things we were doing a few months ago,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a clip Colbert played.

“But I want to! A few months ago was great,” Colbert protested “It was the holidays, I was drunk on egg nog, I was watching “Cheer,” I was falling in love with Baby Yoda, I was looking forward, I was looking forward to impeaching the president. Remember that feeling?”

Also Read: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Say They Have Tested Positive for Coronavirus

“It’s only March. 2020 has done the impossible, it’s made me nostalgic for 2019,” a dejected Colbert added.

Then he brought up statements made by “task force leader, and man who has quarantined his mind from knowledge,” Mike Pence, who said “All of our major health insurance companies have now joined with Medicare and Medicaid and agreed to waive all copays, cover the cost of all treatment for those who contract the coronavirus.”

Colbert used that comment to make a fun joke: “What a cool idea. It’s like Medicare. But, um, for all.”

Funny stuff, but had Colbert waited just a few hours later to tape Wednesday’s show, until after Donald Trump’s wild White House address on coronavirus, he might have updated the joke because as it turns out, Pence’s statement is false. See, after Trump announced a ban on all travel from Europe (except, for some reason, the UK), he repeated the same claim, that both treatment and testing will be fully covered.

Also Read: Trump Bars All Travel From Europe - Except the UK - in Response to Coronavirus

Unfortunately, almost immediately after the White House address, the biggest health care lobby in the country hastily told journalists that only testing, not treatment, will be covered, something the white house later confirmed. So uh, here’s hoping everyone who gets sick is a millionaire.

Watch Colbert’s comments below:

TONIGHT: The Coronavirus has got us all wishing it was a few months ago. #LSSC

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) March 12, 2020

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Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have both tested positive for the coronavirus, Hanks announced on his Instagram on Wednesday.

“Rita and I are down here in Australia,” Hanks said. “We felt a bit tired, like we had some colds, some body aches. Rita had some chills that came and went, slight fevers too.”

“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus and found to be positive,” Hanks said.

The couple, who have been married since 1988 and are both 63 years old, are in Australia for filming on the as-yet untitled film about Elvis Presley directed by Baz Luhrmann, currently slated for a 2021 release date.  In the film, Hanks plays “Colonel” Tom Parker, Presley’s longtime manager. Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rufus Sewell also star.

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“What to do next? The medical officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires. Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated,” Hanks concluded.

Hanks’s disclosure came just minutes after a White House address in which Donald Trump announced several strict measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, most notably a near-total ban on all travel from Europe. Read more about that here.

See Hanks’ full message below:

Also Read: Coronavirus: The Canceled Events in Tech, Media, Politics and Entertainment (Updating)

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The United States will restrict travel from Europe in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump announced in an address from the White House on Wednesday.

The travel restrictions will begin Friday at midnight and will be in place for 30 days. The United Kingdom will be exempt from the restrictions, as will American citizens “who have undergone appropriate screenings,” the president said. The decision builds on the administration’s earlier move to restrict travel from China and Iran.

Trump did not explain why the UK, which currently has 460 cases, is exempted from the ban.

Trump also said that health insurers had agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments and extend insurance coverage to cover coronavirus treatments. However, a representative of AHIP, the largest health insurance lobby group, directly contradicted Trump, telling Politico reporter Sarah Owermohle that the industry will only waive copays for testing, not for treatment, a decision that will likely cost sick Americans millions.

No relief for uninsured Americans was announced.

Also Read: Coronavirus: The Canceled Events in Tech, Media, Politics and Entertainment (Updating)

Trump described it as the “most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”

The president’s 9 p.m. ET address came at the end of a day that saw World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic earlier on Wednesday. More than 118,000 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with more than 4,000 deaths thus far, the organization said.

It capped off a day that saw drastic measures taken to curb the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, across the country. Seattle, one of the hardest-hit cities in the country, announced Wednesday that its public schools would close for two weeks. A number of large events and public gatherings were canceled or postponed in an attempt to limit person-to-person spread, including entertainment and media events like the Kids Choice Awards and the GLAAD Media Awards.

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The Cyberspace Solarium Report released today is another, in an endless string of reports, that disgorge from Washington committees dealing with the eternal mantra of "defending American interests and values in cyberspace." The challenges (and many reports) here trace back 170 years when transnational telecommunication internets emerged. The dialogue and reports scaled in the 1920s with the emergence of radio internets and cyber threats, then again in the early 1980s with the deployment of data internets, and yet again in the mid-1990s with the Clinton-Gore Administration forcing the TCP/IP platform into public network infrastructure without even minimum security regulation, and abandoning related international agreements. As the effects of that disastrous decision have manifested themselves, the cyber reports have become more frequent. Now it is Solarium revisited. (Solarium is the name given to a 1953 Cold War strategic defence initiative that met in the solarium on top of the White House.)

The gist of the Solarium Report and its 80+ recommendations are not significantly different than those seen countless times before — even as it professes the threats are greater. However, the recommendations are not much different than those produced 25 years ago when NSA's legendary Press Winter pulled together the nuclear cold warriors who had funded TCP/IP — for them to atone for their sins as they would say — by creating the CRISP initiative at Stanford and engaged the National Labs. DARPA's Emeritus Director Steve Lukasik who ran much of the work spent the next 20 years cranking out one Andy Marshall or DTRA report after another predicting almost every impending TCP/IP internet disaster and recommending mitigation strategies.

So here we are in 2020. Most of the same observations and mitigations are now bundled under "six key pillars." Even if well-meaning, the pillars and most subtending recommendations have been seen many times before. They are standard Beltway mantras. The only especially critical new concerns relate to U.S. elections and cloud data centres.

What was especially telling about the report is found as part of its rollout explanatory panel on The International Impact a few days ago. The most interesting part of the panel was the probing questions of The Washington Post's Ellen Nakasima who kept asking the question how this report is different from the countless others. The only mind-boggling answer to the question at the end seemed to be more people and an ambassador slot at the State Department for "dealing with 5G." What they probably didn't know was that it was ironically exactly what Diana Dougan did almost 40 years ago when she came to Washington with the Reagan Administration and landed in the State Department.

The report utterly fails to deal with the major foundational problems under the pillars — as it probably inherently could not.

  1. The US shift from its highly-integrated public-private model with strong private-sector R&D in the 1990s to promote the TCP/IP internet political-economic strategy of the time has proven a disaster. The esteemed groundbreaking research laboratories combined with dedicated experts collaborating with their peers in global standards bodies just disappeared. NSA's groundbreaking cybersecurity programs and public leadership disappeared. Other countries — particularly in Asia — took a more cautious approach and instead emulated what was a U.S. success story. The result has gutted the ability of the U.S. — especially the ability to participate effectively internationally.
  2. The TCP/IP internet itself — together with its institutions which are still propped up — has proven an even greater disaster. It was regarded at the time as a vulnerability nightmare — which has become ever worse over the years, as predicted. Now — as networks and services worldwide shift to 5G entirely and move to better protocols — the U.S. is facing challenges in shedding the old baggage and adapting.
  3. Just when effective global multilateral instruments and forums are most needed to deal with global cyber problems of its own making, the U.S. has basically zero credibility from abandoning them in 1990, and effectively killing what was left by the current Administration. The White House, "Elephant in the Room," is impossible to ignore. The most the report offers on international is working with a dozen friendly nations with those new hires at State. Good luck with that one.

Although the report likes to blame the rest of the world for cybersecurity challenges, it ignores the rather embarrassing reality that the U.S. TCP/IP infrastructure itself has long been the source of most of the world's cyber attacks and malware as well as the most targeted — even if the perpetrators are abroad. This reality produces a significant skepticism abroad when yet another report emerges that fails to deal with the problems extant in the nation's own back yard. Even as the FBI warns against zero trust digital certificates being churned out by Silicon Valley and exacerbating cybersecurity incidents, Washington does nothing. What Washington should be doing as one of its pillars is studying how other countries are protecting themselves from the cyber threats emanating from the U.S.

The Solarium Report's comment on page 18 about "losing the international standards race" is so utterly bereft of reality that it underscores the challenge being faced in Washington — its inability (or unwillingness) to understand what is occurring. On page 74 of the report, it asks, "can the 5G deployment be made fundamentally secure? Although nothing can be made fundamentally secure, the risks can be significantly reduced, and the very activity to accomplish this in multiple international bodies has long been underway and the report's authors seem utterly unaware of it. Even the idea of a security certification is moving towards implementation, but will the U.S. participate?

Fortunately, the real participants in the 5G security arena met virtually all of last week and advanced an array of essential capabilities, including supply chain assurance — reviewing and reaching agreement on more than 450 input contributions from 35 different companies and organizations treating 30 5G security work items and proposing 14 new critical security studies and specifications. These were some of the real experts who collaborated and reached consensus decisions via 604 emails. No inputs from any USG sources, but five registered from the national security community to watch, and one lone NIST person expressed a view on an esoteric development. Although a small step, it is a giant leap for an insular Washington. Fourteen U.S. companies and organizations actively participated. These activities are fairly transparent, and the rest of the world outside of Washington can see what is actually occurring here rather than the xenophobic nonsense in the report.

Notwithstanding the foibles of the report, it deserves praise for assembling a broad array of needed actions and beginning to focus on the security of cloud data centres in section 4.5, which — as noted in the report — Europe is already pursuing. The U.S. based Center for Internet Security has already worked with cloud platform providers to instantiate Critical Security Controls capabilities in cloud operating system images, and contributed its specifications for that action via the ETSI global standards profiles that are being used for certification. Section 4.6 also raises the possibility of national data security legislation — which many other nations already have accomplished. The report also expresses long-due concern over the serious negative consequences of end-to-end encryption — for which ETSI has already developed standardized platforms for meeting the diverse needs.

Washington's biggest cybersecurity challenge is itself. It exists in a bubble of non-stop, self-similar chat-boxes that have minimal knowledge or apparent interest in the history, the actual underlying technologies and ongoing activities, or its own culpabilities in the global cybersecurity ecosystem. The internet myths are truly ludicrous. As someone who spends almost all his time in international venues or analyzing them, it is plain that almost no US government agencies and only a handful of companies even engage in the relevant activities anymore. As a result, anything in the report concerning international developments lacks credibility.

What the U.S. should consider is analyzing at how other nations are developing successful strategies, analyzing what is actually occurring, and beginning to engage again in the international venues and activities it has largely abandoned — to the extent that is still possible. Although this is recommended in section 2.1.2 of the report, what is there reveals a lack of understanding of the topic and has no substance. A few people at State is not going to cut it. The only real expertise around Washington is at NSA (as it has been for the past hundred years) and with their peer organizations in every other country. Without NSA significantly, publicly engaged in domestic and international venues, there is no U.S. cyber credibility.

The sad truth is the U.S. has the resources to be a global leader in this space with others, but seems as a nation to be incapable of shedding its internet political illusions and myths, understand the fundamental technological changes in play, and organize and facilitate the available resources effectively. Today, we have yet another cyber commission producing still more pillars. The hope is that it will be something more than just a blueprint for program funding, agency turf, regulation avoidance, Washington institutional aggrandizement, and lobbying prominence — that have nothing to do with any meaningful 5G security or global leadership.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC | 3/11/20
France’s Series Mania, one of Europe’s biggest TV festivals, has been canceled following new French government coronavirus health restrictions. “Series Mania attracts 80,000 festival attendees and 3,000 industry professionals every year. Given the French government’s ban of meetings of over 1,000 people and numerous restrictions on the travel of French and international delegates, we’ve decided […] | 3/11/20
MADRID —  As of Friday, some more contained TV events in Europe were moving full-steam ahead. One, ONSeries Lisboa, set for April 28-29, has revealed a new major section, and the enthusiastic backing of Portugal’s government. In one move, ONSeries Lisboa and Conecta Fiction have opened a joint call for projects in early development linking […] | 3/6/20

For all the ways Belgium’s Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are rightly hailed as masterful contemporary realists with an abiding compassion for society’s fringe strugglers — the poor, the undocumented, the criminal, the victimized — they’ve just as easily earned their place as some of the greatest suspense directors of all time.

Their street-level stories, frequent Cannes winners since 1999’s “Rosetta,” typically hinge on a central desperation tied to simple survival, but when played out with their trademark visual restlessness and character-driven purposefulness, they’re often as nail-biting as any genre exercise or melodrama.

Which makes “Young Ahmed,” the pair’s latest dispatch from the viewpoint of a troubled soul — in this case, a 13-year-old Belgian boy in the dangerous throes of religious fanaticism — both a typically unnerving entry in their canon, and a strangely distancing one, given the impenetrability of its lead’s self-destructiveness.

Also Read: In 'Young Ahmed,' the Disaffection, Dilemmas of Europe's Muslim Youth

It’s a movie one might imagine dissatisfying both Muslims up in arms about insensitive portrayals and Islamophobes looking to see their fears reinforced, which may of course be the point of the directors’ nonjudgmental tone. That doesn’t necessarily deliver their movie, however, as a pointed portrait, even as it carries us effortlessly on a vessel of unassailable technique.

That style of motion and consequence is a grabber from the get-go, as we meet Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) at school in an anxious mode, avoiding the goodbye handshake of his attentive female teacher Inès (Myriem Akheddiou) as he bolts class to make it to the mosque in time. There, he joins in prayers with a young hardline imam (Othmane Moumen) under whose spell both Ahmed’s teacher and his widowed mother (Claire Bodson) believe the boy has fallen.

A curly-haired, bespectacled kid with an inward demeanor — like he’s constantly in a state of avoidance, but also intensely focused — Ahmed is obsessed with the purity of a faith we learn is only a recent preoccupation. In its more harmless manifestation, it means a poster-less bedroom, devotion to prayer times, and ritualized ablutions. Around his family, it becomes a lashing out, calling his concerned mom a drunk and his older sister a slut.

Also Read: 'The Unknown Girl' Review: Guilt and Murder Meet Quiet Naturalism

But Ahmed’s rigidity takes a resolutely darker turn when the imam he idolizes targets Inès as an apostate for speaking against the mosque and for having a Jewish boyfriend, and Ahmed attempts to murder her in a fumbling attack with a hidden knife.

As “Young Ahmed” moves, quickly, to its subject’s life in a custodial rehab center, he becomes an even more curious figure in our minds, in that we’re primed to look for the redemption these kinds of movie narratives usually seek, but also prepared for that indescribable something we also fear when adolescents’ lives are bounced between institutions bent on changing behavior — a kind of hardening. A glimmer of something hopeful arises in how Ahmed responds to being sent to work on a couple’s farm, where their friendly, same-aged daughter (Victoria Bluck) takes a liking to him, and he doesn’t immediately bristle.

In other exchanges with his caseworker (Olivier Bonnaud) or his visiting mother, however, there’s the nagging sense that a performance is being given, that the road back for Ahmed might be longer than anyone realizes. Nothing’s made terribly clear to us, though, about the origins of Ahmed’s radicalism, just what he believes is within reach of him right now, and what he needs to do to achieve it.

Also Read: 'Two Days, One Night' Review: Marion Cotillard Gives a Face to Economic Desperation

The Dardennes have proven to be expert at eliciting galvanizing turns from nonprofessionals, and with Ben Addi they continue that streak. Though the singlemindedness on display isn’t the most difficult of mindsets to convey, the young lead’s mix of awkwardness and alertness is never less than mesmerizing, giving you the sense that on one level, Ahmed sees himself as the protagonist in a life-or-death story.

When coupled with the filmmakers’ established way with intimately hairy scenarios — in this case, aided by cinematographer Benoit Dervaux’s up-close lensing and Tristan Meunier’s tight editing — that aspect of Ahmed’s story, especially when the jittery final act kicks in, is commendably nerve-racking.

And yet that never feels quite enough to distinguish “Young Ahmed” as uniquely illuminative about its impenetrable main character’s journey, even if the last moments attempt a kind of Bresson-ian grace. Is it adolescence the Dardennes are exploring? Or specifically fatherless adolescence? Is it Islam? Islam in a western country? Or all religions anywhere?

For perhaps the first time in the brothers’ career, one of their movies feels like it’s missing a key something: an understanding, or an inquisitiveness, or perhaps that framing known as judgment. Maybe what’s missing in “Young Ahmed” is what the movie is ultimately about — the thing we may never know about the grip of extremism, any kind of extremism, and why it vexes us. The problem is that it’s one thing for a character to confound us, and another for the movie around him to do so.

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Dardenne Brothers' 'Young Ahmed' Acquired by Kino Lorber

Sharon Waxman and Steve Pond Reflect on 10 Years of TheWrap, and 10 Years of Cannes (Video)

TikTok Pulls Ban on Teen Who Called Out Chinese Government's Mistreatment of Muslims

George Takei Says Trump's Comments About Muslims and Immigrants Are 'an Echo From My Childhood' | 3/5/20
How Igor Matovic used a series of publicity stunts to defeat Slovakia's populist left government. | 3/4/20

Like the Coronavirus, 5G Dementia seems to be spreading around Washington. The latest manifestation has appeared at the FCC — which is trying its best to make U.S. 5G infrastructure as insecure and primitive as possible. But first, an explanation of how 5G Dementia begins at the top and spreads in the U.S. capitol.

5G Dementia begins with "The Genius” who lounges around White House quarters and emits spontaneous tweets on whatever motivates him at the moment. Somehow, 5G came onto the radar — likely through a favorite television news show. Soon afterwards, someone at the same location dutifully turns the tweet into a Fact Sheet, and then an Executive Order. Then, everyone around town tries to figure how to best advantage themselves in a game of Pile-On. Inevitably, the low hanging fruit by the clueless minions turns to blaming the foreigners for perceived inadequacies or a faux race to win. That then leads to lobbyists trolling for 5G dollars.

The malady quickly spreads to the FCC — a mere 1.8 kilometers away — where they rummage around the regulatory closet for some cards to play in the game. The Commission has a big one — they control the use of radio spectrum, and that has created a multi mega-million dollar jackpot lobbying industry in Washington. It is great, however, for feeding the lobbying narrative of more spectrum brings some perceived 5G supremacy. The FCC also has two smaller cards — it allocates several billion dollars a year out of the Universal Service Fund (USF), and has authority under CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) to impose requirements on communication providers and vendors. CALEA is the 1994 law in the U.S. that requires communication providers and equipment suppliers to have the technical capacity to provide lawful interception (LI) of communications, and the handover of designated customer retained data (RD) to law enforcement pursuant to proper authorization — generally an authoritative warrant. It is a uniform requirement in basically every country in the world.

The "blame the foreigners" and "play-to-win faux races" gambits in Washington traditionally focus on whoever is perceived as ahead of the U.S. It has variously shifted from Europe to Asia over the decades. However, The Genius on high has ramped up jingoism and xenophobia to stratospheric levels and been taking aim at China to bully them into bilateral trade concessions. So, the FCC is now dutifully complying by playing two of its cards together — USF monies and CALEA.

In late November, the FCC on its own accord morphed an existing two-year-old rulemaking proceeding attempting to ban "designated” telecommunication equipment vendors from the U.S. market and compensating carriers with Universal Service Funds, into a CALEA proceeding, and proposed a new CALEA technical standard. As the Commission noted, it was "looking for a source of its [banning] authority," and appeared to believe that CALEA for 5G was such a source.

The FCC proposed a very simplistic new "CALEA 5G standard." It states that a U.S. provider of communication services "must certify...that it does or services [including software] produced or provided by any company designated by the Commission." The rule is found in Appendix B on page 67 of the FCC document. The rest of the information about CALEA is found in paragraphs 35-37 and 132.

The FCC rule covering the "designated company" part is found In Appendix A on page 66. It says that the Commission can "either sua sponte or in response to a petition from an outside party when a company poses a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain" deem any company as a national security threat within 31 days. It applies "to any and all equipment or services, including software, produced or provided by a covered company." Once designated, the company is not only out of business in the U.S., but no communication provider within the FCC's jurisdiction can use the company's equipment, services, or software anywhere, domestically or overseas. Thus far, the only companies targeted for designation are "Huawei and ZTE, along with their subsidiaries, parents, and/or affiliates." However, the new fast-track rule remains for others who get out of favour. There is legitimate concern about what the FCC is mindlessly doing here. The entire scheme is rather profound and draconian as well as patently unacceptable under longstanding public international law.

The FCC seriously perverts CALEA

Beginning with the least significant concern — the Commission is unlawfully weaponizing CALEA in a manner never intended. The FCC attempts to assert its authority based on Sec. 105 of the Act, which deals with the administrative process of implementing Lawful Interception (LI) and Retained Data (RD) production orders, combined with Sec. 107 authority dealing with technical requirements and standards when industry standards are deficient.

However, apparently unbeknownst to the FCC, rather significant work over the past six years amongst communication providers, vendors, and law enforcement agencies largely from Western nations were undertaken to develop an array of 5G CALEA technical standards to address the very concerns the FCC raises. The FCC has never participated in any known 5G CALEA industry technical work or forums, and its published documents in the proceeding display a rather astounding lack of understanding about 5G systems. Yet it not only ignores the existing industry standards, but it is also asserting its own CALEA standard that is essentially so vague and technically ludicrous as to be unimplementable.

Not only does the FCC fail to distinguish between the two fundamentally different and compartmentalized 5G provider categories — network and services — it requires those providers to certify that they don't use equipment, services, or software provided by any company the FCC "designates" after 31-day proceedings. In a vast, autonomous, 5G ecosystem of global, extraterritorial, virtualized network architectures and services on demand — using constantly moving and changing equipment, services, software, users, and objects — it is not fathomable how anyone could even begin to undertake such a certification assessment. How would a 5G provider instantiate customer services to other countries or implement 5G home-routed roaming without using designated vendor equipment, services or software? Adding to the complications are the constantly evolving specifications that constitute the basis for 5G. Those specifications advance significantly almost every year with new releases — currently Rel. 15 and progressing rapidly toward Rel. 16. Work on Releases 17 and 18 have begun. The industry and government experts who develop the 5G CALEA standards are constantly working, and evolve them with each new 5G release.

So, the Commission in its self-assumed wisdom and interest in pleasing the tweeter in the White House has substituted its profoundly ill-informed technical requirements for those developed by a diverse set of specialists producing workable solutions over the past six years.

The U.S. ends up with a costly, seriously deficient, insecure 5G infrastructure

To make matters worse, neither the FCC nor any other Federal agency, have promulgated any 5G technical performance or security standards whatsoever for the infrastructure and services provided to the public. Beginning in the 1990s, the FCC began deferring entirely to industry collaborative bodies to develop those standards without any oversight or requirements other than CALEA. Indeed, they went further by essentially eliminating participation in the bodies by staff or analyzing ongoing developments. The belief was that the marketplace would magically sort out these matters and that the "internet economy" would somehow compensate for the deficiencies.

However, over the past several years, as the tectonic shift to 5G began to take place, a considerable array of companies and security agencies in countries throughout the world began to devote significant resources to develop and adopt by consensus, necessary 5G performance and risk mitigation specifications. Chinese vendors have been significantly engaged in that activity — among other things — to meet the extensive security requirements in their own domestic market as well as foreign ones.

Although several years ago, the FCC contemplated adopting 5G infrastructure security requirements, it was stopped by The Genius as part of his deregulatory mania. It is also a matter of record that the FCC has failed to participate in any 5G industry security technical activities, much less established any requirements except for the rather preposterous new CALEA and USF requirements. (See for example, the lack of FCC participation even in the online SA3 (5G security) meeting this week.) As a result, billions of USF monies will be parceled out to buy whatever "non-designated" vendor equipment, services, and software is available.

The only way to legitimately meet the new FCC CALEA 5G requirements would be for U.S. providers and their vendors to develop their own non-standard 5G specifications, at significantly increased prices, and build local 5G enclaves that consumed enormous overhead to constantly verify they were FCC CALEA compliant and not "using" any designated vendor equipment, software, and services for domestic or international communication. This would necessarily include customers connected to their networks as well. Ironically, those U.S. 5G enclaves could otherwise possess all manner of vulnerabilities and be at risk, as there are no other FCC security requirements in its rules.

The U.S. gets left out of the 5G global market

Although The Genius may be pleased, it's not clear what benefit the U.S. public or industry get out of the FCC actions here. The allowable equipment, services, and software will be some weird U.S. version of 5G that is highly specialized for the U.S. domestic market, and probably proprietary. U.S. vendors and providers are already being scared off of participating in global industry standards activities by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). It is also unclear how extraterritorial home routing roaming could be done, so it would be difficult or impossible for mobile users to roam into or out of the U.S. lest a compliant U.S. provider might invoke equipment, services, or software provided by a designated company. In some ways, it mirrors the new U.S. immigration restrictions and The Wall.

The isolated U.S. version of 5G will be significantly more costly, underperforming, less safe, less innovative, and lack global interoperability. U.S. vendors and service providers pursuing markets in other countries will likely be frozen out of some of them on the basis of reciprocity, or have to operate entirely from abroad in the local domestic markets. In short, the U.S. gets its own stone-age 5G, and its transnational providers get disadvantaged. However, the FCC can have pride in meeting the White House 5G xenophobic mandates to eliminate all touchpoints to anything from Chinese sources.

Of course, this story doesn't stop with China. If The Genius gets angered with Europe, Korea, Japan or any other country and starts tweeting, there might be one of those FCC 31-day proceedings to designate their companies as well. What is ensuing here is basically a purposeful attack on the world's 170-year-old system of public international law of telecommunication and the thousands of people who collaborate globally on the implementing norms and standards. It is being replaced with unilaterally asserted chaos.

Other sovereign nations are unlikely to accept this kind of behavior, and the shunning and retaliatory scenarios are not good. As a former FCC senior staff member, this kind of egregious behavior is dismaying and embarrassing. However, that is the way 5G Dementia goes in Washington these days, and will probably one day be historically explained.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC | 3/1/20

I've wondered for years about why broadband prices are higher in the U.S. than the rest of the world. The average price in other industrial counties is significantly lower. In France, broadband averages $31, Germany is $35, Japan is $35, South Korea is $33, and the U.K. is $35. The average price of broadband in the U.S. is approaching $70, so we're at twice the price as other countries.

Thomas Philippon tackles this question in his new book The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets. He's an economist at NYU who moved to the U.S. in the 1990s but has kept an eye on Europe. The book looks at a lot more than just broadband prices, and Philippon looks at other major industries like airlines, pharmaceuticals, and the U.S. food chain.

He says something that was a wake-up call to me. Go back 30-40 years, and the situation was reversed. At that time, the U.S. had some of the lowest prices in the world for things like telecom, airline tickets, pharmaceuticals, and food — and not just a little cheaper. Prices here were 30-40% lower than in Europe at that time. In just a few decades, the situation has completely reversed, and U.S. prices from major industries are now much higher than in Europe.

How did this happen? He says the cause is almost entirely due to what he calls corporate concentration. In every one of the industries where prices have climbed in the U.S., there have been numerous large corporate mergers that have had the net impact of reducing competition. As fewer and fewer giant companies control a market, there is less competition. One result of corporate concentration is the ability of industries to squash regulations through corporate lobbying — and lowering regulations inevitably leads to higher profits and higher prices.

It's not hard to trace the history of consolidation through any of the major industries in this country. Since the readers of the blog are telecom folks, consider the telecom landscape in 1990:

  • At that time the Baby Bell companies were still separate from AT&T.
  • There was a vigorous CLEC market starting to grow led by companies like MCI.
  • There were probably a hundred different medium-sized regional cable companies.
  • There were not as many cellular companies due to the limited licenses granted for spectrum, but there was still strong regional competition from smaller cellular companies.
  • There were dozens of thriving manufacturers of telecom electronics.
  • In 1990 we had vigorous regulation, and at the state level there was still a lot of telecom rate regulation.

In just thirty years, that picture changed. Most of the Baby Bells came back together under the AT&T umbrella. Comcast and Charter went on wild buying sprees and consolidated most of the medium-sized cable companies. Telcos purchased and neutered their competition, like the purchase of MCI by Verizon. Comcast and AT&T went on to merge with giant content providers to further consolidate the industry supply chain.

Telecom regulation has been all but killed in the country. This is almost entirely at the bidding of lobbyists. The current FCC went so far as to write themselves out of regulating broadband. All of these events resulted in the U.S. broadband that now costs twice as much as the rest of the industrialized world.

Meanwhile, Europe took the opposite approach. In 1990, regulation in Europe was local to each country and concentrated on protecting local industries in each country — and that led to high prices. However, after the creation of the European Union in 1993, regulators adopted the philosophy of promoting competition in every major industry. From that point forward, European regulators made it extremely difficult for competing corporations to merge. Regulators took special care to protect new market entrants to give them a chance to grow and thrive.

The regulatory policies in the U.S. and Europe have completely flipped since 1990. The U.S. was pro-competition in the 90s, as well-evidenced by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Today's FCC is working hard to eliminate regulation. European regulators now put competition first when making decisions.

It's never too late for the U.S. to swing back to being more competitive. However, for now, the monopolies are winning, and it will be hard to break their hold on politicians and regulators. But this is something we've seen before. At the turn of the nineteenth century, big corporations had a stranglehold on the U.S. Monopolies inevitably abuse their market power, and eventually, there is enough public backlash to push the government to re-regulate industries.

Written by Doug Dawson, President at CCG Consulting | 2/29/20
Turkey said Friday that it ordered troops stationed along the Syrian border to stand down and allow refugees to cross into the European Union after a Syrian government airstrike killed 33 Turkish troops in what was seen as a major escalation in the conflict, a  report said. | 2/28/20
The British government on Thursday set out its stance for post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union with a pledge to walk away from the talks if E.U. negotiators refuse to play ball this year — with government ministers saying the U.K. is not prepared to “trade away" its sovereignty to secure a deal. | 2/27/20
The government's negotiating strategy reveals it will not seek to stay part of European Arrest Warrant. | 2/27/20

(Spoilers ahead for season 1 of “Hunters” on Amazon Prime Video, specifically for parts involving the nun Sister Harriet)

Probably my favorite character on “Hunters” is Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvaney), the resident British assassin in the Nazi-hunting group that the series is focused on. She’s cranky and doesn’t mince words, and she only cares about results, which she usually manages to get.

And she also is lying to the other hunters. Season 1 sorta very gradually builds up a mystery around Harriet, showing that she is also working for somebody other than Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino). Who that person or group is remains unknown, though we can make a pretty solid guess about it. So let’s dig in.

Also Read: 'Hunters': Were Those Nazi Concentration Camp Flashbacks Based on True Stories?

Sister Harriet is introduced as a nun who used to work for MI6 before joining this band of Nazi hunters, though we’re not given much background beyond that in the early going. The first sign that something is off about her comes in the third episode, when we very briefly see her make a call from a phone booth — in German. “They’re getting closer,” she says to whoever is on the line.

This was a weird thing for her to do, especially with the German, but it’s an obvious red herring. The Nazis very clearly have no idea what the hunters are doing, and there would be no advantage in stringing them along with a spy instead of just having Harriet wipe out the group. So if she’s a traitor, it’s certainly not for the main group of Nazis.

Then we get some more big confusion in the fifth episode, when part of the group heads to Huntsville, Ala. to hunt some Nazis who had joined NASA back in the day.

They find a whole pile of them, celebrating the Fourth of July with a giant Confederate flag and some fireworks. Once they establish that one specific Nazi is present at this gathering, Harriet finds the guy, tells him the Jews are trying to kill him, and then runs off with the guy without telling anybody else on the team what’s going on.

Also Read: 'Hunters': Did the Government Really Bring a Bunch of Nazis to America in 'Operation Paperclip'?

It looks an awful lot at that point like she’s a traitor, and a secret Nazi. But after a while it seems like she’s actually doing some kind of ruse to pump this guy for information about the Nazi’s plans. Though it’s not at all clear why she would take this approach and not tell anyone she’s doing it — her fellow hunters think she’s betrayed them.

Shortly after this, we learn Harriet’s backstory. She was from Germany originally, and her real name was Rebekah, and she’s Jewish. And when she was a kid living under the Nazis, her parents shipped her off to, apparently, a monastery in Britain, where she was given the name Harriet by her new caretaker, Sister Colin (Anna Holbrook), and presumably became a nun.

The next big scene in this arc comes when the hunters are trying to figure out what the Nazis are up to with their “solution.” So Sister Harriet takes a sample to someone she knows in the Center for Disease Control for testing. This person, very interestingly, was someone Harriet grew up with in the monastery, and she makes a crack about how surprising it is that the other hunters haven’t figured out yet that Harriet has her own secret and separate agenda.

But since this CDC woman is actually helping the hunters foil the big Nazi plot, this conversation is certainly not evidence that Harriet the nun is a traitor.

Also Read: 'Hunters' Creator Defends Fictionalized Accounts of the Holocaust Condemned by Auschwitz Memorial

The mystery continues in one of the final scenes of the season 1 finale. We see Harriet once again in a phone booth, this time waiting for a call. She picks up when it rings, and says, “It’s important to draw open the curtains now and then. See that light still shines in the world.” She then says this was something the woman on the other end of the line always used to tell her.

After Harriet gets the woman up to date on recent events, this unknown woman says something curious. “How will you foll Offerman’s bandits to carry out our plan?” And the woman calls her Rebekah, her real name.

In the next scene, Harriet is back with the other hunters, and she proposes a new plan based on a dossier she had just received: head to Europe and hunt down some Nazis who are up to no good there. The implication being that this is the plan that the woman on the phone mentioned, or it’s closely enough related.

There’s really only one logical guess as to who Harriet is really working for: Sister Colin. It’s tough to compare voices with the telephone distortion, but there are three big clues. 1. That the woman on the phone called her Rebekah, a name that no one other than the sisters at the monastery would know. 2. Harriet spoke to her as if she was a mentor, and Sister Colin is the only mentor we know of that she ever had. 3. Harriet is actively working with at least one other sister from the monastery.

There’s no other conclusion to draw because there are no clues that point in any other direction. So either Sister Harriet is working for Sister Colin, who is in charge of some kind of spy group, or Harriet is working for some entity that hasn’t yet been introduced. But if it’s the latter, then Harriet’s childhood flashbacks would serve no real purpose.

So I feel safe concluding that Sister Colin is the boss here, though I have no clue what that situation is. Are the sisters another clandestine vigilante group of Nazi hunters? Are they a secret division of MI6? Since the hunters are apparently going to Europe next, presumably this will be explored in season 2 if the show gets renewed. | 2/25/20

Paramount Pictures announced on Monday that the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog” in China has been indefinitely postponed as the coronavirus outbreak continues to keep movie theaters and other businesses across the country closed.

“As the whole country and world unite together to fight the outbreak of coronavirus, we would like to express our gratitude and respect to all the medical staff, the rescue personnel, and people in service who provide us with much-needed assistance and support during this time,” read a statement from Paramount.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” has been the most successful film for Paramount in over a year, setting a new record for video game adaptations with a $58 million domestic opening weekend. After two weekends in theaters worldwide, the film has grossed $106.6 million in North America and $203.1 million worldwide.

Also Read: 'Mission: Impossible VII' Halts Production in Italy Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

But release of the film in Asian markets where the SEGA video game icon is well known has been held back by the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected tens of thousands of people in China. Health officials in the country have reported over 77,000 cases with nearly 2,600 people killed. An additional 2,000+ cases have been reported in other countries, with major outbreaks occurring in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

The coronavirus first began to spread a month ago during the start of the Lunar New Year, a holiday period that is critical to the Chinese economy but especially to movie theaters, which only screen Chinese-produced films by government mandate and see the highest audience turnout during the season. Last year, combined revenue on the first day of Lunar New Year set a new single-day record for the market, and grosses for the entire period came in at approximately $835 million.

Also Read: Coronavirus Lockdown Cripples Chinese Box Office: Will Hollywood Movies Take a Hit?

But in response to advisement from health officials, nearly all of China’s movie theaters have remained closed for the past month, costing exhibitors billions in ticket and concessions revenue. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which was scheduled for release this Friday, was set to be the first major Hollywood import in China after the Lunar New Year period ended. Aside from “Sonic,” no other Hollywood blockbusters, including Disney’s expected megahit remake of “Mulan,” had received a release date.

The epidemic has also had an impact on Paramount’s production plans, as filming for the seventh “Mission: Impossible” film with Tom Cruise in Italy has been postponed due to an outbreak there this past weekend. More than 200 cases and five deaths have been reported there, the highest of any country in Europe.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Mission: Impossible VII' Halts Production in Italy Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Apple's Stock Slides 5% As Coronavirus Fears Rise

Coronavirus Lockdown Cripples Chinese Box Office: Will Hollywood Movies Take a Hit? | 2/24/20

The Berlinale Film Festival has renamed its top award, the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, after a report surfaced that accused the festival’s first director and the prize’s namesake of Nazi ties, the festival announced Tuesday.

The festival will now award a special prize named The Silver Bear 70th Berlinale, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the film festival. It will similarly be awarded by the International Jury.

Late last month, the Berlinale suspended the Silver Bear prize after an article in the German newspaper Die Zeit said Bauer played a previously unknown role in the Nazi film bureaucracy and engaging in National Socialist film politics.

Also Read: Jeremy Irons to Head International Jury of Berlin Film Festival

The Berlinale then hired external historians to conduct an investigation into Bauer’s role during the Nazi era and commissioned the “Institute for Contemporary History” (IfZ). The IfZ was founded in 1949 to academically research the National Socialist dictatorship.

“We are convinced that an external and independent group of historians should investigate Alfred Bauer’s position in the Nazi regime,” Berlinale executive director Mariette Rissenbeek said in a statement. “Moreover, we also agree on this with the Deutsche Kinemathek, which supports this approach. Accordingly, we are pleased that the IfZ can now initiate the necessary research work.”

Bauer was the festival’s first director between 1951 to 1976. He died in 1986 and the prize was named in his honor the following year.

The results of the IfZ assessment are expected in the coming summer.

The European Film Market and the Berlinale Film Festival kick off this week and run through March 1.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Gerard Butler to Star in International Action Thriller 'Remote Control'

Ruth Wilson and Matt Bomer to Star in True Story of AIDS Activist 'The Book of Ruth'

Kino Lorber Acquires Berlinale Golden Bear Winner 'Synonyms' | 2/18/20

Last month INHOPE, a global trade association of child abuse reporting hotlines, rejected a joint call from Prostasia Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, Article 19, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, that its members should stop treating cartoons as if they were images of child sexual abuse. As our joint letter pointed out, INHOPE's conflation of offensive artwork with actual abuse images has resulted in the misdirection of police resources against artists and fans — predominantly LGBTQ+ people and women — rather than towards the apprehension of those who abuse real children.

INHOPE is not a child protection organization, but an industry association for organizations and agencies that provide censorship services to government and private industry. Its Articles of Association are surprisingly explicit about this: its objective is to "facilitate and promote the work of INHOPE Member Hotlines, whose work is to eradicate illegal content, primarily child sexual abuse material, on the internet" [emphasis added].

It executes this mission by collecting personal information of those who share images that are reported to it (which can include a name, email address, phone number, and IP address), and sharing this information among its member hotlines and with police. Again, it is explicit about this, acknowledging that its "core business revolves around the exchange of sensitive data." INHOPE members have actively lobbied to weaken European privacy rules so that they can maintain these data collection practices, while refusing to accept a compromise allowing continued scanning for actual child abuse images.

Such data collection is clearly justifiable when it is limited to actual sexual abuse images. But INHOPE's data collection isn't limited to this. It siphons up reports of all manner of reports that its members declare to be illegal in their country, and (with one exception mentioned below) gives them another "once-over" to determine whether they are illegal worldwide, only in the reporting or hosting country, or not at all, before forwarding them to INTERPOL. Even if this assessment leads to a determination that the images are lawful, INHOPE doesn't delete them. Inexplicably, it instead classifies them as "Other Child-Related Content," retains them in a database, and sends them to law enforcement for what it describes as "documentation purposes."

Images reported by NCMEC, the American hotline, undergo even less vetting. Despite being an INHOPE member, NCMEC doesn't utilize the services of INHOPE analysts, but directly shares reported images and associated personal information with law enforcement agencies around the world. According to Swiss authorities, up to 90% of these images are later found to be lawful.

INHOPE chose to mischaracterize our call as being grounded in a misunderstanding of the fact that some countries do prohibit artistic sexual representations of minors by law. But our letter explicitly acknowledged that fact, by calling on INHOPE to establish a policy for its members that "artistic images should not be added to image hash lists that INHOPE members maintain, and should not be reported to authorities, unless required by the law where the hotline operates” [emphasis added].

There are indeed some countries in which lawmakers do ill-advisedly use the same laws to criminalize the dissemination of offensive art as they use to prohibit the image-based abuse of real children. But the risks of an international organization allowing national authorities to act as gatekeepers of the images that it it treats as child abuse and reports to INTERPOL should be obvious.

For example, Canada's overbroad child pornography laws have recently drawn public attention over the much-criticised prosecution of an author and publisher for a novel that includes a brief scene of child sexual abuse in its retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel. The Canadian Center for Child Protection, one of only two INHOPE members that proactively searches for illegal material, was responsible for the arrest of a a 17 girl for posting artwork to her blog, when it reported her to authorities in Costa Rica where such artwork is also illegal.

In other countries where cartoon images are illegal, criminal laws are used to disproportionately target and criminalize LGBTQ+ people and women. An example given in our letter was the case of a Russian trans woman who was arrested over cartoon images and sentenced to imprisonment in a men's prison.

Russia's INHOPE member the Friendly Runet Foundation encourages people to report if they are "exasperated by the on-line materials transgressing morality," and boasts that it was "created at the direct participation and works in close partnership with the Department "K" of the Russian ministry of Interior." This terminology, and the hotline's association with the ministry that criminalized "gay propaganda," is understood by Russian citizens as an attack on LGBTQ+ people's speech. It is noted that no LGBTQ+ representatives are included on INHOPE's Advisory Board. 

INHOPE can't do anything, directly, about unjust national laws that conflate artistic images with child abuse. INHOPE and its members also can't do much to prevent conservative members of the public from reporting non-actionable content (although one member has taken steps to address this problem). That's why we are directly targeting the public with our "Don't report it, block it” information campaign, to stem such false reports at the source.

But what INHOPE can do is to decide what to do with reports that it receives about artistic content. Passing them to law enforcement authorities, using a censorship and surveillance infrastructure that was established to deal with real images of child sexual abuse, isn't its only option here. Neither is it necessary to place those who share such images in the crosshairs of police, especially in countries that have unjust laws or repressive governments.

In 2019, we held a seminar with Internet companies and experts to discuss more proportionate ways of dealing with content such as child nudity, child modeling, and artistic images, that doesn't rise to the legal of child abuse, but which can still be triggering or offensive, or harmful when shared in the wrong context. Through a multi-stakeholder process, this resulted in the development of a set of principles for sexual content moderation and child protection that were launched at last year's Internet Governance Forum.

INHOPE already has a Code of Practice that its members are required to comply with. To be clear, some INHOPE members already do have good practices, and Britain's Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is one of these: although cartoon images are unlawful in the United Kingdom and the IWF is mandated to accept reports about them, it doesn't include these reports in its hash lists of abuse images, nor share them with foreign police. Our joint letter invited INHOPE to take the opportunity to amend its Code of Practice to apply similar standards to its other members. Its decision not to consider this doesn't reflect well on the organization.

Internet reporting hotlines are selling a product to law enforcement authorities: a censorship service for which actual images of child abuse are only the selling point. This can be a lucrative gig; NCMEC alone received $33 million from the United States government in 2018. Therefore, as a business proposition, it makes sense for INHOPE and its members to ask few questions about the scope of the censorship services their governments call upon them to provide. Conversely, since almost no federal money is being allocated towards abuse prevention, there is little incentive for them to invest in prevention interventions that could reduce abuse in the long run.

But these perverse incentives are leading it down a dangerous path. It's time for us to call this censorship cartel to account, and to demand that it consider the human rights of the innocent people who are being hurt by its approach. The plain fact is that INHOPE doesn't represent the voices of experts who work on child sexual abuse prevention, it represents the law enforcement sector. By refusing to curtail its activities to place the censorship of artistic images outside its remit, INHOPE has lost the moral authority that provides the only justification for its sweeping and dangerous powers.

Written by Jeremy Malcolm, Executive Director, Prostasia Foundation | 2/14/20

After the disappointing “Birds of Prey” opening last week, movie theaters and studios are hoping for better returns during the Valentine’s/Presidents’ Day weekend, which will see the DC Comics movie attempt a rebound against a varied slate of new releases led by the Paramount family film “Sonic the Hedgehog.”

“Sonic” will be the No. 1 film on this 4-day weekend as both Paramount and independent trackers are projecting an extended opening total in the low $40 million range. While that would be a decent start for this $95 million-budgeted CGI/live-action hybrid, Paramount is aiming much higher than decent, and the studio likely hopes for a theatrical run strong enough to merit a sequel.

“It was a really rough 2019 for Paramount, and that’s in good part because they just don’t have enough reliable franchises,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “If ‘Sonic’ can become popular with families and overseas audiences, it could really help them build a more consistent movie slate that won’t have as many long slumps like we saw last year.”

Also Read: Here's How 'Birds of Prey' Could Rebound From a Weak Box Office Opening

There was a time when it seemed like “Sonic” was headed for disaster. When the film’s first trailer was released last April ahead of a then-scheduled November release, Sonic fans, critics and even the uninitiated mocked the character’s eerily human-looking design so thoroughly that Paramount moved back the release to February to make time for a total redesign of the character. The new design turned out much closer to the character’s video game appearance, and when a second trailer was released, reception among kids and “Sonic” fans was far more positive.

That trailer was followed by one of the biggest marketing campaigns for a Paramount release in recent years, with billboards, commercials, and bus ads prominently featuring Sonic’s makeover. But the blue hedgehog wasn’t alone. The campaign has also heavily pushed Jim Carrey, who plays Sonic’s nemesis Dr. Robotnik. The past decade saw Carrey take a big step back from the slapstick roles that made him a big star in the 90s and 2000s, with the one exception being a return to one of his most famous roles with “Dumb and Dumber To” in 2014.

Also Read: Jim Carrey on 'Sonic' Redesign Forced by Fans: 'It's Either Going to Be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing'

The Robotnik footage shown in the trailers have teased a return to the Carrey of old, which might lure in moviegoers who aren’t fans of Sonic but who grew up watching Carrey 25 years ago and are nostalgic for his brand of humor. If demographic breakdowns this weekend show a stronger than expected turnout from non-family audiences over the age of 35, that might be a reason why.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” will also release in 41 countries overseas, including in South America, Australia, and much of Europe. But China and Japan, the Asian markets where Sonic is most popular, are still to come. But even if word of mouth is positive both domestically and internationally this weekend, Paramount could see overseas numbers sag if the coronavirus crisis persists by the time “Sonic” is released in Chinese theaters on February 28.

China’s government has ordered the closure of almost every theater in the country as part of an effort to contain the virus that has as of this writing killed over 1,000 people. The lockdown began during the Lunar New Year holiday when many Chinese films come out, and those films have had their theatrical releases indefinitely postponed. Even if theaters are back in business by the time “Sonic” is supposed to be released in China, it’s quite likely that it will have to compete with an extremely jammed market filled with local fare like “Detective Chinatown 3,” reducing how much money it might make in Asia. That will be something both Paramount and analysts will have to keep in mind when it comes time to look at the overall theatrical performance and determine whether we will see a “Sonic 2” in the future.

Also Read: Coronavirus Lockdown Cripples Chinese Box Office: Will Hollywood Movies Take a Hit?

Directed by Jeff Fowler, “Sonic the Hedgehog” follows the SEGA video game icon (voiced by Ben Schwartz) as he flees his world and arrives on Earth to hide from those who want to take his super-speed powers. But after an accidental encounter with a small-town Montana sheriff (James Marsden,) Sonic’s presence is exposed to the world, and he must team up with the cop to avoid being hunted down by the evil Dr. Robotnik. Tika Sumpter also stars in the film, which was written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller.

In addition to “Sonic,” two other wide releases will try to bring in Valentine’s Day couples looking for a date movie: the Sony/Blumhouse horror film “Fantasy Island” and the Universal romance “The Photograph.”

“Fantasy Island” is a dark take on the classic Ricardo Montalban TV series, starring Michael Peña in Montalban’s role as Mr. Roarke, the owner of a mysterious remote island that offers to make the wishes of its visitors come true. But for Roarke’s visitors, those granted wishes soon turn into nightmares, forcing them to figure out the island’s secrets if they want to make it out alive. Directed by Jeff Wadlow, the film is projected to earn a 4-day opening of around $18 million against a reported budget of $7 million. Sony is projecting a $13-15 million start.

“The Photograph” stars LaKeith Stanfield as a journalist who forms an unexpected relationship with the estranged daughter (Issa Rae) of a recently deceased photographer he is writing a story on. Lil Rel Howrey, Rob Morgan and Courtney B. Vance also star in the film, which was written and directed by Stella Meghie. The film has a reported budget of $16 million and is projected to earn a 4-day opening weekend of $12-14 million.

None of this weekend’s new releases had a critics score on Rotten Tomatoes at time of writing.

Related stories from TheWrap:

New 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Design Wins Over Rebellious Fans: 'All Is Forgiven'

Jim Carrey on 'Sonic' Redesign Forced by Fans: 'It's Either Going to Be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing'

'Sonic the Hedgehog' Director Vows to Change Character Design After Fan Backlash | 2/12/20

It must have been a galling experience for President Trump when his good mate British Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to step in line with Trump's demand that the UK should also boycott the Chinese firm Huawei by not allowing them to be involved in the rollout of 5G in Britain. However, the involvement of Huawei will be limited.

It further proves that boycotting Huawei is a political and not a technical issue. Huawei is a poster child for China's international technology success and, by boycotting Huawei, Trump is hurting China as a global technology leader.

While there are other good telecoms manufacturers, Huawei is internationally recognized for being the leader in 5G technology, innovation and R&D, at the same time, it has been able to offer their products and services at a significantly lower cost than its competitors. Britain recognizes, as do many other countries in Europe and Asia that this provides them with the best possible mobile technology, which will assist these countries in global competitiveness and provides lower prices to its citizens.

To highlight this situation, the restriction put on Huawei in the rollout of 5G in the UK is going to cost British Telecom £500 million, as it will have to buy more expensive gear from other suppliers. BT's shares, already down 25% over the previous 12 months, were down a further 7.5% after the company's assessment of the Huawei impact.

I totally agree we need to be very wary of the totalitarian regime in China, where President Xi Jinping is using technology in an Orwellian way to control and manipulate its population, with the aim of making them placid and complacent. And he would like to extend his surveillance state model beyond the Chinese borders.

However, these sorts of concerns should be addressed through international forums putting pressure on China to adhere to global values and agreements. In these international forums, the rest of the world shouldn't shy away from strong pressure and strong condemnation.

As mentioned, the UK is not giving Huawei a free ride — there is a range of restrictions on the company's participation in the 5G rollout. Also, Boris Johnson voiced its support for more local R&D support in order to stimulate more competition into the telecoms equipment market. There are basically three major global telecoms manufacturers, apart from Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia (the latter two both European companies).

Back to the politics of the issue, in my opinion, Trump tries to mix these real concerns with global hegemony issues and the fear of the United States losing out economically to China.

It will be interesting to see if there will be any fallout of Johnson's decision not to follow Trump's lead. Unlike other countries in Europe and Asia who are still buying Huawei equipment, Britain is part of the Five Eyes countries. These Anglo-Saxon countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the U.S.) share intelligence, and Trump has already mentioned his concerns about any of these countries not complying with the U.S. policy on Huawei.

With Britain leaving the EU, this country is now desperately looking for new bilateral trade deals, and Trump could make life difficult for Johnson by dragging out negotiations and/or being stubborn about making deals.

By the same token, an unpredictable President Trump could suddenly end the Huawei boycott if he believes he may get good concessions out of President Xi Jinping.

Another interesting development to follow is the reaction of other countries in the process of making decisions about the rollout of their 5G network. Will they follow UK's lead and withstand the Trump threats? Through the so-called Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes alliances, many more countries are linked to intelligence sharing arrangements with the United States. Apart from Australia and Japan, none of them have followed the U.S. lead.

It is expected that New Zealand and Canada are now expected to follow the UK's lead. The EU, as a group, has already indicated it is not in favor of banning any company from the 5G rollouts. Instead, they are working on a stringent security framework for these networks that will be imposed on all players. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also voiced her opposition to a Huawei ban, and the UK decision will no doubt also further strengthen her stand on the issue.

At the same time, countries in Africa and Asia are continuing to roll out networks with Huawei's 5G equipment, and here the UK decision will have a positive effect on further decisions to be made on these continents.

In short, this story is far from over, and there will be many more twists and turns before we will see the end of this. In the meantime, the real focus should be on global corporations aimed at ensuring that our democratic and human rights values are well protected in the wake of all the new technologies — not just in relation to 5G, but also and in particular AI.

Written by Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication | 2/12/20
The industry says the UK government has told it to prepare for trade barriers with the European Union. | 2/10/20

Most of us, when we go to a website and see the little lock at the top of the browser, don't think twice and trust that we are communicating with the right company or organization. However, this is no longer the case because of a rather radical development that has largely occurred without notice or intervention by almost everyone. The web now has its own rapidly spreading version of CallerID spoofing that is about to get worse.

Thirty-five years ago, the National Security Agency working with the private sector, developed what has proven the most important and widely used means for digital identity trust. It is known as the Public Key Infrastructure digital certificate or "PKI cert" for short and was specified in a global intergovernmental standard known as ITU-T X.509.

The idea was simple. Any organization that wants to be trusted goes to a special provider known as a public Certificate Authority (CA) who is supposed to verify certain essential identity basics, and then issue a unique, encrypted key — the PKI cert — to the organization with its identity information securely contained. The platform was approved by all the world's governments and became the basis for trusted digital identity globally. Europe added further trust features through an ETSI Electronic Signatures and Infrastructures standards group.

Then came the World Wide Web with sites all over the world as a kind of universal user interface to billions of people. The problem was that users couldn't trust who was actually running the websites. So a little over ten years ago, the five companies which produce most of the world's web browsers got together with most of the CAs to develop a standard for vetting organization identity for trusted website certificates and display that information in a little lock icon that appears at the top of the browser. They collaborate and reach agreements through an organization known as the CA/Browser Forum. The activity has very far-reaching, fundamental cybersecurity consequences as they control who gets trusted, how verification occurs, and how that trust is provided to billions of users around the world.

Until relatively recently, as required by well-established global standards and practices, the PKI certs had some substantial vetting of an organization's identity, which was then coded into the certificates and displayed to end-users in the browser lock. There was even a high trust certificated known as an "extended validation certificate" that turned the lock green in most browsers and displayed the validated name.

However, starting in 2013, several parties started up a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in Silicon Valley (Internet Security Research Group) to dramatically disrupt the digital identity world by issuing free, zero-trust, instant certificates with no organization identity vetting. These so-called Domain Certificates were then marketed commercially beginning in 2016 under the registered trademark Let's Encrypt® and browser vendors were asked to recognize them as a trusted CA. If you see one of these Let's Encrypt certificates (identified as "DST Root CA X3) and click on the lock, the Subject Organization identity information is completely missing and simply says "unknown." It is caveat emptor.

The tactic proved enormously successful as the organization itself described in a highly detailed, tell-all paper presented in a London conference made public last December. As they note in the paper, it "has grown to become the world's largest HTTPS CA… and by January 2019, it had issued over 538 million certificates..." The paper also documents how Let's Encrypt has had a profound effect on the CA market — now dominating it with 57% of the certificates. "Let's Encrypt has seen rapidly growing adoption among top million sites since its launch, while most other CAs have not." They also describe how they used the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to leverage their activities. The commercial opportunity was further facilitated through sponsors who make tax-exempt contributions to the organization's $3.5 million reported 2018 income - some of whom then market the certificates as part of their business offerings.

The paper also admits that "important security challenges remain." The cybersecurity impacts arise — because with zero validation, anyone with interest in spoofing, hiding their identity, or otherwise exploiting security flaws can do so — and indeed have.

Legal and public policy concerns

Although Let's Encrypt has a small section in its December paper describing the "legal environment," it doesn't even begin to treat the major national security, public policy, public safety, antitrust, tort liability, law enforcement, IRS, consumer protection dimensions that have gone with virtually no notice or discussion. Perhaps the most central concern can be summed up by four questions: who gets to decide who is trusted, with what level of vetting, with what manner of notice to end users, and who bears the consequences.

The challenge of digital identity trust was largely solved 35 years ago through a comprehensive, visionary Reagan Administration initiative known as Secure Data Network Systems (SDNS) that in fact was responsible for today's X.509 PKI environment. However, all the required public-private administrative and identity vetting actions necessary to successfully implement the platform were eliminated a decade later by the Clinton-Gore Administration in the belief that Silicon-Valley itself could handle everything and grow the information economy.

As a result, we have inherited today a world of rampant cybersecurity and societal problems stemming from an inability to trust anything online, and where some of the most important identity trust decisions for most of the world's population are made by a handful of firms and organizations with no oversight or control or consequences. It seems long overdue for a concerted global public-private effort to significantly improve digital identity trust for the web and all the giga-objects and services that will constitute the new 5G virtualised communications ecosystem. Potential sweeteners for Silicon Valley with government involvement is the relief from the potentially enormous antitrust, consumer protection, and tort liability consequences.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC | 2/9/20

The last few weeks have shown that n avigating Latino identity is a minefield that can set off an explosion at any moment in American culture. Such as: Is Antonio Banderas Latino or not?

This and other hot-button debates — including the unalloyed joy at Shakira and JLo performing at the Super Bowl — expose the complexity of what it means to be Latinx. These heated discussions drive home why Hollywood desperately needs gatekeepers who understand what these cultural firestorms are really about.

That’s because the unspoken rules regarding Latino identity shift depending on the context. (We can’t even agree on what to call ourselves, but that’s a topic for another time.)

Let me break down the firestorms of the past month as a way to unpack the lessons embedded within.

1. Antonio Banderas: Colonist or Hollywood trailblazer for Latinos?

Exactly on queue, on the morning Oscar nominations were announced last month, outrage among Latinxers erupted on social media. Aside from widespread frustration with JLo’s nomination snub, despite her head-turning role in “Hustlers,” debate raged over Banderas’ nomination for his leading role in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory.”

The rub? For some, Banderas, who was born in Spain, does not represent diversity in Hollywood. The outrage at the suggestion that his nomination was a small win for all Latinos was so strong, one would think Banderas makes it a habit of waking up in the morning and dressing in Spanish conquistador armor before heading to Hollywood meetings. Others within the Latinx community dismissed the debate as divisive — a win for someone with Spanish-speaking roots should be a win for all.

That awkward moment when Antonio Banderas, a white man from Spain, is included with Cynthia Erivo in @CTVNews’s #OscarNoms report. Antonio Banderas, just like Catherine Zeta Jones, is a white European. #OscarsSoWhite

— Alfonso Martin Espina Opiniano (@alfonsoespina) January 13, 2020

That awkward moment when Antonio Banderas, a white man from Spain, is included with Cynthia Erivo in @CTVNews’s #OscarNoms report. Antonio Banderas, just like Catherine Zeta Jones, is a white European. #OscarsSoWhite

— Alfonso Martin Espina Opiniano (@alfonsoespina) January 13, 2020

Perhaps a more constructive conversation would be examining how Hollywood’s executive elite perceives Banderas. Have studio heads historically seen him as one of their own, a slam dunk for quintessential Hollywood roles? Or has Banderas, in his 30+ years in Hollywood, too been perceived as an “other” in those closed-door, career-defining conversations by gatekeepers?

The response to Banderas’ nomination among the Latinx community should have come as no surprise: The entertainment industry would do well in trying to understand the nuances of representation.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarónlast year captured the ongoing struggle about the lack of representation of U.S. born Latinos in an interview with media company Remezcla.

“There is so much talk about diversity, and I mean some progress has been made, but definitely the Hispanic Americans — and specifically Chicanos — are really, really badly represented still,” Cuarón said after winning an Oscar for the feature film “Roma.” “It’s amazing, you know? It’s a huge percentage of the population.”

Why Hollywood darling “American Dirt” turned to ash

Before copies even hit the bookshelves, the Mexican migrant novel by Jeanine Cummins unleashed the wrath of many Mexican Americans and other Latinos for what has been described as the book’s unsophisticated narrative — a tale laced with stereotypes, clichés and a hollow understanding of the journey to cross the border.

Imperative Entertainment, the production company behind Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” acquired the rights to the novel after a publishing bidding war resulted in a seven-figure sum for Cummins. In the author’s note, Cummins now famously says she wished “someone slightly browner than me” had written the novel, before conceding she had the “capacity” to be some sort of a cultural bridge, presumably because her husband was an undocumented immigrant (from Ireland, it was later known) and her grandmother is Puerto Rican.

Barnes & Noble

Did Hollywood jump before doing its due diligence? How we tell the important stories of our time is just as important as deciding what stories to tell.

The “American Dirt” controversy reminds me of a time early in my career when I was tapped by newsroom editors as a lead writer to help chronicle California’s changing demographics. I was being dispatched to the border to tell the story of the explosive population growth among Latinos, which for the first time was more a result of births than of immigration.

Barely out of college from my hometown of Miami — where Latinos dominate every layer of business, politics and culture — I felt the assignment was all wrong. So I mustered up the courage to ask for a meeting with editors to discuss the direction of the story.

Journalists, as with entertainment execs, are fans of storytelling extremes — when, in fact, most of our daily lives are lived within the gritty, ambiguous in-between. My twenty-something self sat in a chair inside a small office, flanked by three veteran journalists, all white men. I proceeded to explain what I saw as flaws of the story idea.

Latinos, it seemed from our conversation, were something to observe through a fishbowl. “Why do Latinos have so many babies? Let’s go see them in the wild,” it felt as though they were asking.

When I pushed back, one of the journalists who was standing inside of the cramped office asked if I felt as though I was “too close to the story” and couldn’t be impartial.

Would it be better, he asked, “if a Bavarian wrote it?” He was the said Bavarian.

I’m not exactly sure how I managed to pick up my metaphorical mouth from the floor and continue my pitch, but it remains a moment of pride that I walked out of that office with a completely different assignment of my own choosing. I would spend several months reporting and writing — alone, without the Bavarian.

It helped that I came to the meeting prepared, having spent hours analyzing census and private polling data. I found that if you look deeper at the trends over time, Latinos across generations very much begin to resemble white America when it comes to birth rates.

So I set out and found the perfect family (who hadn’t settled on the poverty-stricken border) from which to tell a generational story that begins at the Rio Grande, migrates to California’s crop-picking fields and finishes (or begins again) on college campuses.

It’s too late to change the immigrant tale at the center of “American Dirt,” though its publisher, Flatiron Books, backpedaled on its marketing push and book tour after the fervent backlash:

“We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the immigrant experience; we should not have said that Jeanine’s husband was an undocumented immigrant while not specifying that he was from Ireland…” the statement read. “We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”

Does it come as a surprise that Latinos made up just 3 percent of the publishing workforce in 2018, according to a 2019 Publisher’s Weekly study?

No, not really.

3. How Shakira and JLo’s performance united Latinos

“I’ve often wondered why Latinos, particularly considering our share of the population, have struggled to make the same headway in Hollywood as African Americans and Asian Americans.

Then I think about some of the complicated conversations with my friends. For context: I’m the daughter of Cuban immigrants; my husband is second-generation California Mexican American; our friends are a mix of children and grandchildren of Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinian and European immigrants; and several also proudly represent Boyle Heights and East L.A.

On a recent night, we went from debating the Banderas nomination to discussing the Latino director of some obscure film. The assumption was that he was of Mexican heritage. Then we Googled his name.

“Oh, he’s Puerto Rican,” my friend, a self-described Chicana, said.

“You sound disappointed,” I responded, as her shoulders slightly slumped.

“I thought he was Mexican.”

In that disappointment lies the crux of why what Shakira and JLo did Sunday night felt so significant. For 12 minutes, these power women brought pan-ethnic Latinos together, forcing us to forget our differences and instead focus on our shared culture, experience and love of Spanglish.

We were one. And when JLo draped herself in a feathered Puerto Rican flag, Latinos collectively cheered, regardless of what country our parents or grandparents immigrated from; whether or not we speak Spanish; and no matter if we identify as Latinx or not.

Because in the context of making entertainment history on the most significant of stages, Latino identity transcended divisions.

So, yes, Latinos can gripe about whether a Banderas Oscar nomination counts toward Latino representation — and still see ourselves in “Pain and Glory.” We can tear apart the immigrant story central to “American Dirt” — and still demand more stories about the struggles south of the border. We can wear our different nationalities as badges of honor — and still come together as one when our culture is center stage.

Rather than see us as too difficult to understand, Hollywood should value us for being complicated and dynamic and flawed — a true American story.

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On January 28, the UK government was set to announce whether it would allow Huawei, the Chinese information and communication technologies provider, to develop its 5G infrastructure. Given Brexit and its need to form new alliances, the decision was marked as a significant moment for the UK's trade future. Leading up to the day of the decision, the UK was subjected to a significant amount of pressure from the United States government to reject any deal with Huawei. (Similar pressure was exercised towards any other US ally considering to use Huawei's 5G infrastructure). In a tweet sent by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the day before the decision was due, he made the claim that Britain's decision would effectively be one of sovereignty.

We can debate the merits of this claim, but the thing that I want to focus on is the often-use of the word 'sovereignty' in conjunction with the Internet and technology. It is interesting to observe how in almost every single discussion about the role governments should have in the Internet, the term 'sovereignty' pops up. Terms like "digital sovereignty," "technological sovereignty," or "Internet sovereignty" have become commonplace.

But, does sovereignty help advance the Internet governance conversations?

The answer is an emphatic 'no'; sovereignty adds an extra layer of complexity and only pushes states further apart while, simultaneously, it undermines and fragments the Internet. Sovereignty and the Internet are — prima facie — two irreconcilable concepts.

Born out of the effort to connect networks with one another, the Internet was originally designed not to recognize any geographical boundaries. Its design embodies a true decentralized structure in the sense that it is both architecturally decentralized — it runs on multiple computers — as well as politically — no central authority has power over those networks. This decentralized nature has further allowed the various autonomous networks to interconnect with one another irrespective of where in the world they are located. In fact, since its inception, one of the Internet's distinguishable characteristics has been its global reach: "any endpoint of the Internet can address any other endpoint, and the information received at one endpoint is as intended by the sender, wherever the receiver connects to the Internet. Implicit in this is the requirement of global, managed addressing and naming services ."

Sovereignty, on the other hand, is all about strict geographical boundaries. It refers to the legal autonomy of the state to act independently and without constraints within its own territory. Under its Rousseaunian tradition, it reflects the power of the state emerging from its people and for the people.

In the context of geopolitical disputes for transnational communication technologies, sovereignty is currently seen as the construction of a governance system with the ability to coordinate and manage exchanges that may or may not address primary issues of privacy/data protection and security. In this context, its application is one of scale. Historically, countries always sought to impose some sort of domestic legislation to the Internet, but, at the same time, most of them equally understood and respected the need for network autonomy and integrity. Over the past few years, however, there has been a significant shift in this thinking, with an increasing number of countries now actively seeking to centralize control over the Internet. For any country interested in the governance of the Internet, the claim to sovereignty is a claim to power.

Such a Foucauldian approach considers sovereign power as a constant negotiation about the validity of claims of knowledge and truth, which dictates the power dynamics within a system. In this context, we can observe countries, like Russia and China, racing to codify their own notions of sovereignty in international law, much in the same way, the West was integrating its ideas of "universal values" when the Internet first emerged and for the best part of its commercial history.

Three distinguishable forms of "Internet sovereignty" have emerged thus far.

The first one is China's vision of sovereignty, which is predominantly attached to notions of national security and securitization. (Russia is also part of this thinking, but its vision and technology implementation is not nearly as advanced as China's.) China's Internet sovereignty is all about the right of national governments to supervise, regulate and censor all electronic content that passes through its borders — what Bill Bishop has referred to as the "invisible birdcage. " In China, "Internet sovereignty" first appeared in a 2010 White Paper, which indicated that "within Chinese territory the Internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. […] To build, utilize and administer the Internet well is an issue that concerns national economic prosperity and development, state security and social harmony, state sovereignty and dignity, and the basic interests of the people ". Since then and through a series of laws focusing primarily on cybersecurity, China has increasingly placed chokepoints on its Internet infrastructure, requiring network operators to store data within China and allowing Chinese authorities to conduct spot-checks on the network operations of any company operating out of China. On December 1, 2019, China rolled out its Cybersecurity Multi-level Protection Scheme (MLPS 2.0), aiming to create a system that is able to monitor every activity in China: Internet, mobile, WeChat type social networks, cloud systems, national and international email — everything. The framework's goal is not to empower users or even allow companies to make money; it is an attempt to centralize control over key network operations to the Chinese government. With this strategy, China does not seek to close itself out of the global Internet but, instead, to strengthen global network integration.

For Europe, sovereignty means independence from the dominant US technology companies. Europe started flirting with "digital sovereignty" as a response to the Snowden revelations in 2013. A 2014 research paper by the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) and New America's Open Technology Institute identified around 12 European countries using the term or considering practical policy solutions to its end. These policies ranged from the construction of new undersea cables to stronger data protection rules; they detailed different layers of extreme with some going as far as to suggest forced data localization and routing rules. Although most of these proposals never materialized, Europe has integrated sovereignty in its recent digital strategy. Last year, Ursula Von Der Leyen, Europe's chief Commissioner stated that "it is not too late to achieve technological sovereignty in some critical areas. "Similarly, her number two and the EU's competition czarina, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager argued that digital sovereignty can be achieved through "the development of key value chains and technologies that are of strategic importance for Europe" and which should be "open, truly European, innovative and lead to widespread knowledge dissemination. "

And, then, there is the case of India. India presents a big oxymoron being both the largest democracy in the world and the world leader in deploying Internet shutdowns as a political tool to assert its sovereignty. Since August 2019, India has sanctioned the longest Internet shutdown ever to occur in a democracy, in the disputed Kashmir region. Discretionary and vague legal rules regarding the control the government can exercise over India's Internet service providers has further enabled the government to restrict or limit access to regional and district levels. But, it is its data localization laws that further indicate India's direction towards a more sovereignty-based Internet. A series of recent laws require different forms of data, from governmental to heath and financial to be stored in India. Additionally, India's data protection legislation lays out the conditions under which "critical" and "sensitive" data are to be stored locally; this includes, financial, health and biometric information. An official document by the Committee of Experts on data protection acknowledged that although "laws facilitating cross-border data flows […] greatly foster research, technology development and economic growth ", critical personal data should be processed only in India with no cross-border transfer allowed.

So, what does this all mean and why should we care?

For the state, to view the Internet as nothing more than an extension of its sovereignty right should not come as a surprise. The key role of states is to make more of life 'legible' as James Scott has convincingly argued — this means to better record and measure human affairs in an effort to make them easier to manage. However, the drive for 'legible' or readable structures that can be easily understood and regulated often comes with a fatal flaw; in the top-down drive to simplify and formalize our understanding of complex systems, we sometimes disregard the local and practical knowledge critical to managing the complexity. To this end, our expectations that the state should — or would for that matter — see the Internet in a different fashion must be moderated. With this in mind, what is the impact sovereignty has on the current state of play?

The first point of this consideration is the pressure sovereignty places on the Internet. Although, as we said previously, it should be expected that governments apply rules of sovereignty in all aspects of international relations, including the Internet, the stricter the application of those rules, the more danger there is for the Internet to splinter and fragment. And, by this, we don't mean that the global Internet will cease to exist; rather, it will be neither desirable nor beneficial for people and networks to participate in the global Internet. Its resilience, which depends on the very fact that networks are diversely spread around the world, will diminish and with it any need for interoperation.

The other problem is how sovereignty contributes to state actors not being willing to collaborate. States are already split in their views of the Internet — a split that grows bigger. A UN resolution by Russia in the last days of 2019 on cybercrime, demonstrated the increasing division amongst the views of states. The resolution, which was opposed by the US and Europe but backed by China, passed 79 to 60, with 33 abstentions. And, although we should not sound the alarm bells yet, still this resolution indicates a clear move towards a more sovereign based approach for the Internet, which does not create any conditions for collaboration. In fact, sovereignty is the antithesis to collaboration, and this constitutes a problem. The Internet's past is based on collaboration. Its future also depends on it.

Why is all this important? Because, whichever nation manages to crack the sovereignty code, will also determine the Internet we will end up using. Will it be an open and global space-based on interoperation and mutual agreement? Or, will it be a closed and fragmented model based on geographical boundaries and cultural relativism?

This post was originally published in

Written by Konstantinos Komaitis, Senior Director, Policy Development and Implementation, Internet Society | 2/5/20
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The politics of Europe deals with the continually evolving politics within the continent. It is a topic far more detailed than other continents due to a number of factors including the long history of nation states in the region as well as the modern day trend towards increased political unity amongst the European states. The current politics of Europe can be traced back to historical events within the continent. Likewise geography, economy and culture have contributed to the current political make-up of Europe. Modern European politics is dominated by the European Union, since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc of Communist states. After the end of the Cold War, the EU expanded eastward to include the former Communist countries. By 2007, it had 27 member states.

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