Apple Cuts Off Payments, Qualcomm Slashes Expectations

Qualcomm slashed its profit expectations Friday by as much as a third after saying that Apple is refusing to pay royalties on technology used in the iPhone.

Its shares hit a low for 2017.

Apple Inc. sued Qualcomm earlier this year, saying that the San Diego chipmaker has abused its control over essential technology and charged excessive licensing fees. Qualcomm said Friday that Apple now says it won’t pay any fees until the dispute is resolved. Apple confirmed Friday that it has suspended payments until the court can determine what is owed.

“We’ve been trying to reach a licensing agreement with Qualcomm for more than five years but they have refused to negotiate fair terms,” Apple said. “As we’ve said before, Qualcomm’s demands are unreasonable and they have been charging higher rates based on our innovation, not their own.”

Qualcomm said it will continue to vigorously defend itself in order to “receive fair value for our technological contributions to the industry.”

But the effect on Qualcomm, whose shares have already slid 15 percent since the lawsuit was filed by Apple in January, was immediate.

Qualcomm now expects earnings per share between 75 and 85 cents for the April to June quarter. Its previous forecast was for earnings per share between 90 cents and $1.15.

Revenue is now expected to be between $4.8 billion and $5.6 billion, down from its previous forecast between $5.3 billion and $6.1 billion.

Shares of Qualcomm Inc. tumbled almost 4 percent at the opening bell to $51.22.


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Driverless Apple Car Spotted in Silicon Valley

Just weeks after receiving official approval, an Apple self-driving car has been seen making its way through the streets of Silicon Valley.

The Lexus fitted with various sensors is the latest entrant in the quest to make driverless cars commercially viable. Apple, a late comer, likely will face fierce competition from Google’s Waymo, which has carried out millions of miles of road testing, and Uber, which has been testing autonomous cars for months.

Apple’s initiative, officially called Project Titan, is driven by hardware developed by Velodyne Lidar, while Apple is expected to develop the software.

Based on documents obtained by Business Insider, Apple’s cars sound very much like other self-driving cars. The cars are “capable of sending electronic commands for steering, accelerating, and decelerating and may carry out portions of the dynamic driving task,” according to the documents.

As with other driverless cars, humans are still present and can override the self-driving mode at any time.

Despite being somewhat late to the game, Apple may find an opening in the way of a potentially lengthy legal battle between Waymo and Uber, with Waymo alleging that Uber stole its trade secrets.

On Thursday, Uber executive Anthony Levandowski recused himself from work on driverless cars in the wake of the lawsuit, which alleges he stole intellectual property while employed at Google.


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Robot Takes Recovering Child to Her Seat in Class

“I would like for you to have a pencil out on your desk,” fifth-grade teacher Mary Fucella said to her reading class at Point Pleasant Elementary School in Glen Burnie, Maryland. A kilometer and a half away, in a pink bedroom, Cloe Gray pulled a pencil out, too, and listened.

Cloe, 11, is at home, recuperating from leg surgery. For the first month after the operation, a home tutor visited her. But the precocious child grew withdrawn and didn’t want to leave her bed. She missed routine. She missed her friends. She missed real school.

“You could tell she wasn’t happy,” said Rob Gray, Cloe’s dad.     

The Anne Arundel County school system in Maryland had a cure. Cloe now attends class virtually through a $3,000 robot. Hers, which she named Clo-Bot, was donated by the local Rotary Club. Since she began using it, the learning hasn’t stopped.

Clo-Bot is basically an iPad attached to a pole on wheels. Cloe uses the keyboard on her home computer to remotely control the device, rolling it into and out of the classroom. She speaks through a headset and is heard through the iPad. When the class breaks up into small groups, one classmate holds materials up to the iPad, and Cloe contributes to the project.

Fucella said Cloe was a little shy at first about “raising” Clo-Bot’s hand, “but now I feel like it’s just like having the normal Cloe in the classroom.”

To answer a question, Cloe clicks on a slider, and the iPad raises to the teacher’s eye level. Cloe said the robot had given her confidence to participate. “I’ll try it and I’ll get it right,” she said. “Woo-hoo! Personal victory!”

The Anne Arundel schools have six of the robots. Patrick Malone of the district’s Office of Instructional Technology said he and his colleagues had been stunned at their effectiveness.

“Every kid that uses this technology starts to smile again,” Malone said. “They start to feel like a regular kid again, and I cannot put a price on that.”

Devices like Clo-Bot are the brainchild of Double Robotics, a privately held technology company in Burlingame, California.

The telepresence robot can be used for business or education, anywhere people need a physical presence. Double Robotics co-founder and CEO David Cann said he understood the importance of school attendance, educationally and socially, and that it was humbling “to be able to provide a way for all students to attend school, no matter their situation.”

Double Robotics has 300 of its robots in the United States, with 25 others placed in education facilities in China, Japan, Australia and Canada.

When it’s lunchtime at Point Pleasant, Cloe’s best friend, Kyla Jones, walks with Clo-Bot to the lunchroom. The sight of a fifth-grader walking with an iPad rolling beside her seems like a scene from a science fiction movie.

“At first it was kind of weird because it was Cloe, but not really Cloe,” Kyla said. But now, it’s natural for the two to discuss, well, whatever fifth-graders discuss. On a recent day, the topic was flip-flops.

Cloe uses the device’s 150-degree wide-angle lens to look down as she maneuvers the robot beside the cafeteria table. Cloe’s dad delivers her lunch to her desk at home, and classmates start joining Clo-Bot at the lunch table.

Cloe said it’s sometimes nerve-racking to enter the lunchroom. “Everyone’s like, ‘Hi, Cloe!’ ‘Bye, Cloe!’ ” she said.

Clo-Bot waits until school is over to get its energy. Cloe maneuvers it to a charging station, where it sits until the bell rings the next morning. Then Cloe will happily drive her virtual self back to Ms. Fucella’s class.


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Robot Takes Sick Child to Class

Think back to grade school. If you were sick, you stayed home. If you had a serious illness, you’d miss weeks, or even months of classes. Technology could change all this, with a robot attending school in place of the sick child. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti introduces us to a Baltimore girl who is homebound no more.


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Federal Court: Women Can Be Paid Less Based on Past Salary

Employers can legally pay women less than men for the same work based on differences in the workers’ previous salaries, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court ruling that said pay differences based exclusively on prior salaries were discriminatory under the federal Equal Pay Act.

That’s because women’s earlier salaries are likely to be lower than men’s because of gender bias, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Seng said in a 2015 decision.

1982 law cited

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit cited a 1982 ruling by the court that said employers could use previous salary information as long as they applied it reasonably and had a business policy that justified it.

“This decision is a step in the wrong direction if we’re trying to really ensure that women have work opportunities of equal pay,” said Deborah Rhode, who teaches gender equity law at Stanford Law School. “You can’t allow prior discriminatory salary setting to justify future ones or you perpetuate the discrimination.”

Activists held rallies around the country earlier this month on Equal Pay Day to highlight the wage gap between men and women. Women made about 80 cents for every dollar men earned in 2015, according to U.S. government data.

The 9th Circuit ruling came in a lawsuit by a California school employee, Aileen Rizo, who learned in 2012 while having lunch with her colleagues that her male counterparts were making more than she was.

Attorney: Logic hard to accept

Her lawyer, Dan Siegel, said he had not yet decided the next step, but he could see the case going to the U.S. Supreme Court because other appeals courts have decided differently.

“The logic of the decision is hard to accept,” he said. “You’re OK’ing a system that perpetuates the inequity in compensation for women.”

Fresno County public schools hired Rizo as a math consultant in 2009 for $63,000 a year. The county had a standard policy that added 5 percent to her previous pay as a middle school math teacher in Arizona. But that was not enough to meet the minimum salary for her position, so the county bumped her up.

Equal Pay Act of 1963

The Equal Pay Act, signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, forbids employers from paying women less than men based on sex for equal work performed under similar working conditions. But it creates exemptions when pay is based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of work or “any other factor other than sex.”

The county argued that basing starting salaries primarily on previous pay prevents subjective determinations of a new employee’s value. The 5 percent bump encourages candidates to leave their positions to work for the county, it said.

The 9th Circuit sent the case back to Seng to consider that and other justifications the county provided for using previous salaries.


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Trump to Sign Order Aimed at Expanding Offshore Drilling

Working to dismantle his predecessor’s environmental legacy, President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order Friday that could lead to the expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

With one day before he reaches his 100th day in office, Trump will order his interior secretary to review an Obama-era plan that dictates which locations are open to offshore drilling, with the goal of the new administration to expand operations.

It’s part of Trump’s promise to unleash the nation’s energy reserves in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign oil and to spur jobs, regardless of fierce opposition from environmental activists, who say offshore drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.

Zinke: Safeguards remain

“This order will cement our nation’s position as a global energy leader and foster energy security for the benefit of American people, without removing any of the stringent environmental safeguards that are currently in place,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday evening.

Zinke said the order, combined with other steps Trump has taken during his first months in office, “puts us on track for American energy independence.”

The executive order will reverse part of a December effort by President Barack Obama to deem the bulk of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic as indefinitely off limits to oil and gas leasing.

It will also direct Zinke to conduct a review of the locations available for offshore drilling under a five-year plan signed by Obama in November. The plan blocked new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It also blocked the planned sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska, but allowed drilling to go forward in Alaska’s Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage.

The order could open to oil and gas exploration areas off Virginia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades.

Zinke said that leases scheduled under the existing plan will remain in effect during the review, which he estimated will take several years.

Monuments, sanctuaries under review

The order will also direct Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to conduct a review of marine monuments and sanctuaries designated over the last 10 years.

Citing his department’s data, Zinke said the Interior Department oversees some 1.7 billion acres on the outer continental shelf, which contains an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas. Under current restrictions, about 94 percent of that outer continental shelf is off-limits to drilling.

Zinke, who will also be tasked with reviewing other drilling restrictions, acknowledged environmental concerns as valid, but he argued that the benefits of drilling outweigh concerns.

Environmentalists protest

Environmental activists, meanwhile, railed against the expected signing, which comes seven years after the devastating 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Diana Best of Greenpeace said that opening new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling would lock the U.S. “into decades of harmful pollution, devastating spills like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, and a fossil fuel economy with no future.

“Scientific consensus is that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves — including the oil and gas off U.S. coasts — must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” she said.

Jacqueline Savitz of the ocean advocacy group Oceana warned the order would lead to “corner-cutting and set us up for another havoc-wreaking environmental disaster” in places like the Outer Banks or in remote Barrow, Alaska, “where there’s no proven way to remove oil from sea ice.”

“We need smart, tough standards to ensure that energy companies are not operating out of control,” she said, adding: “In their absence, America’s future promises more oil spills and industrialized coastlines.”


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United Airlines Settles with Doctor Dragged Off Plane

United Airlines reached an out-of-court settlement Thursday with a doctor who was dragged off one of its flights after he refused to give up his seat.

The airline and Dr. David Dao’s lawyers agreed not to disclose the amount of money he will receive.

United put out a brief statement saying it reached an “amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident.”

United changes policy

The airline said earlier Thursday that from now on, no passenger would be forced to give up his seat except in cases of safety and security.

Those who volunteer to surrender their seats when a flight is overbooked would get up to $10,000 in compensation.

“Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect,” United chief Oscar Munoz said. “Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize.”

Chicago aviation police dragged Dao up the aisle of the packed plane when United needed to make room for airline employees.

Three other passengers volunteered to give up their seats, but Dao was picked out at random and refused to leave, saying he had to get home to treat patients.

Congress gets involved

His nose was broken, some teeth were knocked out, and he suffered a concussion. Cellphone video captured the scene. Dao, with blood streaming down his face, could be heard screaming with other shocked passengers.

The incident prompted calls in Congress  to bring back government airline regulation.

Some lawmakers demanded outlawing the practice of overbooking flights, in which airlines sell more seats than are available to ensure a full plane.


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Investors Have High Hopes for Ghana, Says Finance Minister

Ghana’s finance minister says investors were optimistic in meetings with senior government officials who accompanied Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia to the World Bank spring meetings in Washington.

In an interview with VOA, Ken Ofori-Atta said investors detected a new energy, and a sense of hope in a team that is focused on getting Ghana out of its current predicament. He also said that with a new government in place, the world is ready to see Ghana shine again in a much more stable West Africa.

“We came in on a platform of change and real hope that we will revitalize the economy and create jobs and there would be growth,” Ofori-Atta said. “But we met some pretty difficult challenges with regards to fiscal deficit close to 9 percent, lots of unemployment, growth of 3.4 percent, which was very low, and the discovery of some 7 billion Cedis [$1.3 billion] arrears that we all did not know about. Foreign exchange was low, and you also had the exchange rate in a pretty difficult situation. So we had to contend with all of that since we came [to power].”

But opposition groups say the new administration should get to work rather than complain about the state of affairs. They contend that Ghanaians displayed confidence in them by rejecting the previous government for failing to improve the lives of its citizens.

Ofori-Atta said that in just over 100 days, the government outlined its plans to jump-start the economy in a budget, which was presented to parliament. The aim, he said, is to create millions of jobs as the ruling party, led by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, promised ahead of the December elections.

“We decided to create a budget that is both leading to a fiscal consolidation in a real way and also not compromising growth,” Ofori-Atta said. “So we brought down the deficit as a target from 8.7 percent to 6.5. We squeaked out a primary balance surplus. We’re reducing our debt-to-GDP ratio from 72.5 to 70.9 percent, and then increase revenue by 34 percent. So, quite dramatic contraction in a sense. However, we also were clear that we needed to spur growth.”

One means to achieve their goals: abolishing some taxes.

“One of the most dramatic things was to abolish about 14 taxes, which the senior minister [Yaw Osafo Marfo] termed to be nuisance taxes,” Ofori-Atta said. “Taxes that were kind of suppressive and created a sense of cohesion by the state. As a center-right party, we have to revitalize the economy, we have to give stimulus, we have to encourage people to use their creative energies.”

Ofori-Atta also said abolishing the taxes will free Ghanaian businesses, and entrepreneurs will help to “bring Ghana back” into a working mode.

Another measure the administration plans to implement is the revitalization of the rural economy. This, he said, includes establishing a factory in each of the country’s districts, as well as sending $1 million to each constituency as a resource to support the policy of one district, one factory, which was promised by the president in the run-up to the polls.

Critics, however, say the one district, one factory promise was overly ambitious. They contend that with the dramatic reduction of taxes, government revenue would be sharply reduced, thereby handicapping the ability of the administration to raise the necessary funds it needs to keep the promises to Ghanaians. They also say the reduction of taxes was just a ploy to score political points.

But supporters of the ruling party reject the criticisms as unfounded.


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Most US Teens Have Taken Social Media Break, Poll Finds

The common stereotype has teens glued to their phones 24-7. But nearly 60 percent of teens in the U.S. have actually taken a break from social media – the bulk of them voluntarily, a new survey found.

The poll, from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, surveyed teens aged 13 to 17 and found that most value the feeling of connection with friends and family that social media provides. A much smaller number associate it with negative emotions, such as being overwhelmed or needing to always show their best selves.

The survey, released Thursday, found that teens’ social media breaks are typically a week or longer, and that boys are more likely to take longer breaks.

Teens were allowed to cite multiple reasons for their breaks. Nearly two-thirds of teens who took a break cited at least one voluntary reason. Amanda Lenhart, the lead researcher and an expert on young people and technology use, said she was surprised by this, as it counters the broader narrative that teens are “handcuffed” to their social media profiles.

Today’s teenagers might not recall a time before social media. MySpace was founded in 2003. Had it survived, it would be 14 years old today. Facebook is a year younger. Instagram launched in 2010. For an adult to understand what it might be like for someone who grew up with it to step back from social media, consider disconnecting from email – or your phone – for a couple of weeks.

Among the teens who took voluntary breaks, 38 percent did so because social media was getting in the way of work or school. Nearly a quarter said they were tired of “the conflict and drama” and 20 percent said they were tired of having to keep up with what’s going on.

Nearly half of teens who took a break did so involuntarily. This included 38 percent who said their parents took away their phone or computer and 17 percent who said their phone was lost, broken or stolen.

The involuntary break “is sort of its own challenge,” Lenhart said. “They feel that they are missing out, detached from important social relationships (as well as) news and information.”

About 35 percent of teens surveyed said they have not taken a break, citing such worries as missing out and being disconnected from friends. Some said they need social media for school or extracurricular activities.

“I like to see what my friends and family are up to,” said Lukas Goodwin, 14, who uses Instagram and Snapchat every day. He said he took a break from Instagram “a few years ago” but not recently. Now, he says, “I wouldn’t want to take a break from them.”

Among the survey’s other findings:

– Lower income teens were more likely to take social media breaks than their wealthier counterparts, and their breaks tended to last longer. The study points out that educators who use social media in the classroom need to understand that not every teen is online and connected all the time.

– Boys were more likely to feel overloaded with information on social media, while girls were more likely to feel they always have to show the best version of themselves.

– Teens who took breaks typically did so across the board, checking out of Facebook, Snapchat and all other services all at once. And they were no more or less likely to take breaks from social media based on the type of services they use.

– Although they felt relief and were happy to be away from social media for a while, most teens said things went back to how they were before once they returned to social media.

The AP-NORC poll was conducted online and by phone from Dec. 7 to 31. A sample of parents with teenage children was drawn from a probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Parents then gave permission for their children to be interviewed. The panel, AmeriSpeak, is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.


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Narrow Turkish Referendum Victory Reveals Economic Concerns

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s referendum victory to extend his powers was bittersweet.  

For the first time he lost in Turkey’s main cities, including Istanbul, which has been his electoral power base since 1994.  In the aftermath of his narrow win he has ordered a party investigation into the vote.  The drop in support coincides with an economic slowdown, an ominous sign given the president is facing crucial polls in two years.

Erdogan’s unprecedented electoral successes were largely achieved in a period of economic boom, but those halcyon days appear to be waning.  

“Currently, inflation rate is at 11.3 percent and is expected to increase further to around 12 percent in the coming months,” observes Inan Demir, an economist for Nomura Bank, “It would constitute the highest inflation rate since before the global financial crisis in 2009.  Also, unemployment is at multi-year highs.  So we are talking about a significant jump in the inflation and unemployment rate.”

The impact of the economic slowdown has been felt the most in western Turkey, where more than 70 percent of the country’s economic production is located, and most closely linked to European markets.  The same region saw some of the biggest drops in support for the president in the referendum vote.  While the Turkish economy is predicted to grow faster than that of Europe, it is still below the rate needed to absorb new entrants into the labor market.

Disaffected youth

A striking development of the referendum was the youth vote, overwhelmingly voting no, bucking its traditionally stalwart support for Erdogan.  

“Youth unemployment is affecting the first-time vote.  The youth unemployment ratio was 25 percent, according to the last data, notes Atilla Yesilada, a political consultant with Global Source Partners, “Fifty-eight percent of first-time voters voted “No.” (citing IPSOS research).  According to OECD research, Turkish students are the unhappiest in the world with 72 percent saying they are very unhappy with conditions.  So given Turkey’s very high rate of young population, up to six percent of the voters in the next election cycle, which starts in March 2019, will be first-time voters, which in my view is slipping from their [Erdogan government’s] grasp”.

 2019 is scheduled for an unprecedented three polls – of local, general and presidential elections.

Erdogan’s success in the referendum was due in part to the overwhelmingly support he received in the rural heartland of the country, known as Anatolia, a region that has particularly benefited from the expansion of social security benefits under Erdogan’s AK Party rule.

“I detect that certain voters are becoming clients of AKP, these people can’t survive in the globalized economy of Turkey,” claims consultant Yesilada, “they are largely existing on account of the welfare state and also  AKP has been very successful in imposing the view entitlements are coming form the party, rather than the state.  So a dependency has been created between the poor in Anatolia and AKP, and these are people are so afraid if AKP ever loses they will lose their entitlements.”

In the run-up to the referendum, the government again turned to state intervention, launching major programs of cheap loans for businesses, job creation schemes, and massive public works projects.

Early elections?

Economists predict that with individuals and private companies racked with debt, more state intervention is likely, ”Turkey will find it difficult to sustain that debt-fueled growth, that’s why the public sector will play an increasing role in supporting economic activity going forward.  Personally, I expect elections to be held earlier than the current schedule.  I would not be surprised to see elections by this time next year.  So I think it can be sustained until that time.”

The pressure to call early elections will deepen worries about how the government will fund it’s growing economic and financial programs.  “So [numbers] are simple,” warns Yesilada, “we cant borrow abroad, because it very costly or foreign lenders are no longer willing, and Turkish deposits have been completely converted into loans.  I don’t know how this can go forwards.”  

Given that the bedrock of Erdogan’s electoral success has been built on economic prosperity, the continuation and trajectory of those programs ultimately could determine his fate.

 


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