Sen. Chuck Schumer says the world would be a ‘worse place’ without Amazon

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On Recode Decode, Schumer says he’s “sympathetic” to tech giants like Facebook and Amazon.

Tech companies are changing everyday life in the United States, and not always in good ways — but on balance, Senator Chuck Schumer says he’d rather they regulate themselves than wait for government to step in.

“For a decade, tech was a great, great thing,” Schumer said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “It allowed people to agglomerate. It allowed people who had no power, who didn’t own a newspaper, who didn’t own a TV station, who didn’t have a megaphone, to get together and have power.”

The senior Democratic Senator from New York, currently the minority leader in the U.S. Senate, said he agrees with the legislation proposed by his colleagues Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar, requiring transparency in political ads on platforms like Facebook. But he’s wary of Congress directly involving itself with the content on those sites.

“Government regulation of speech is a frightening thing and has a bigger downside than upside,” Schumer said. “So I approach the issue with care, maybe more so than some of my colleagues who have similar politics to me.”

Speaking with Recode’s Kara Swisher and Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen, he characterized himself as “sympathetic” to tech giants like Amazon, recognizing that they have had both disruptive and positive effects on his constituents — and, in Amazon’s case, more of the latter.

“Amazon does great things for huge amounts of people, and they only have three to four percent of the retail market,” he said. “Could it get greater? Yes! But again, I’d be careful. They are creating cheaper, better competition.”

“Yes, they’re big,” Schumer added. “Big can do good things as well as bad things, and you’ve got to separate the wheat from the chaff. Would the world be a better place or a worse place if there were no Amazon right now? My guess is a worse place. And yet, there’s a lot of problems, for sure.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Sen. Schumer also talked about how he’s thinking about the social media giants whose platforms were used by Russian agents posing as Americans during the 2016 election.

“Facebook is a very powerful force,” he said. “I think, overall, it’s been a very positive force and now people are taking advantage of the openness of the net. And Facebook has an obligation to try and deal with it.”

“I talked to them,” Schumer added. “I truly believe they want to, I truly believe they know their future is at stake with this. I also believe it’s a hard thing to do.”

The “first big test” for Facebook and its peers, he said, will be whether they are similarly manipulated for political ends in America’s midterm elections later this year.

“The amount the Trump administration is doing against Russia is, appallingly, zero, almost,” Schumer said. “So it’s up to tech to do more. And I do think they’re making an effort — not only because it’s the right thing to do but because they know that down the road, their survival depends on it.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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Four Reasons Why the Opioid Epidemic Is Getting Worse, Not Better

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Despite efforts to address the crisis, opioid overdoses in the U.S. continue to increase at a disturbing rate.

A new report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the number of people checking into the emergency room (ER) after overdosing rose by 30 percent between July 2016 and September 2017. In 2016 alone, opioids were the cause of nearly 42,000 deaths across the country, more than any previous year on record.

“In every region, in every age group of adults, in both men and women, overdoses from opioids are increasing,” CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat told NPR.

The fact that the report was only able to capture people who were hospitalized suggests that the grim toll may be much higher, because many people who overdose never go to the ER.

The CDC’s report didn’t delve into the cause behind the 30 percent increase, but several factors may have played a part in this concerning trend:

  • Insurers won’t cover alternative treatments: For people affected by chronic pain, there are many options other than addictive pain killers. The so-called interventional pain treatments include local injections and physiotherapy. However, perhaps because their positive impacts are more difficult to assess, insurance companies often don’t cover this type of treatment, making them less affordable than legal opioids.
  • Access to stronger opioids: NPR notes how easy it is to get stronger illegal opioids such as fentanyl. While it can be used for pain relief, notes the drug carries a high risk of dependency, as do other compounds like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, though they can be prescribed by doctors. Kratom is another such drug meant to treat pain relief, yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed it dangerous.
  • Children: According to research recently published on the journal Pediatrics, the number of children between the age of 1 and 17 who have been admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose has nearly doubled from 797 patients between 2004 and 2007, to 1,504 patients between 2012 and 2015. Jason Kane, an associate professor of pediatrics and critical care at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago and lead author of the research, suspects many gain access to their parents’ medications, and either intentionally or accidentally take them.
  • Lack of legislation: The opioid epidemic is clearly nothing new, yet congress has put little effort to address the situation; a belief shared by Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Kolodny told NPR: “There’s been a lot of talk from Congress and from the administration and a recognition that we need to do something about this problem. But nothing yet has happened.” As reported by Bloomberg BNA, however, both the House and Senate are now looking for ways to manage the crisis in the future. In January, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey introduced new legislation intended to combat the opioid crisis. According to Reuters, Arizona officials blame opioid overdose for roughly 800 deaths occurred in the state since June 2017.

While the opioid crisis can’t be attributed to the combination of the above factors alone, it’s clear that more must be done to offset the significant loss of lives to products that are supposed to help people. The CDC’s report is sure to turn heads and bring some much needed attention to the problem, but it’ll be for naught unless things change fast, be it through legislation, or future drugs made specifically to tackle addiction and withdrawal.

The post Four Reasons Why the Opioid Epidemic Is Getting Worse, Not Better appeared first on Futurism.


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Analyst Believes iPhone Battery Replacement Wait Times Will Get Worse and Fall Sales Will be Impacted

Throughout 2018, Apple will be hosting a $ 29 battery replacement program for iPhones, allowing customers to replace the battery in their device once for the discounted price tag. Continue reading
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Silicon Valley’s Corrupt Underbelly: It’s Far Worse Than We Thought

After addressing the topic of sexual harassment and misconduct in Silicon Valley last month, I finally got my hands on a copy of Brotopia, an eye-opening new book, and a lot of executives should be happy I did not pursue my career in law enforcement. Otherwise I would be working my butt off to get them off the streets behind bars. Everyone connected to tech should read this book. Specifically, for investors, it will give you insights into a level of extreme avoidable risk that has not been factored into the market — at least not yet.

Our Attempts to Reverse Climate Change With Geoengineering Could Leave the Planet Worse Off Than When We Started

Climate Control

Solar geoengineering has been touted as a promising method of ensuring that our planet remains habitable by artificially cooling the climate. However, embarking on such a path could have grave consequences if the process were to be abruptly reversed, a new study finds.

Geoengineering takes many different forms, many of which use radically different principles to achieve the same end goal. Solar geoengineering revolves around the use of aerosols to reflect sunlight back into space. The technique doesn’t have a direct impact on carbon in the atmosphere, so it’s not a definitive solution to climate change. However, its proponents say that it can reduce temperatures, giving us some extra time to remove more carbon from the atmosphere.

A new study led by Christopher Trisos, an ecologist at the National Socio-environmental Synthesis Center, assesses the risks of taking such an action for a limited period of time. The paper, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, suggests that the sudden termination of a solar geoengineering program could cause greater harm than climate change itself.

“The study looks into a rapid start and a rapid termination of solar geoengineering, which is probably not the way the world would do it,” said Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative, speaking to Futurism. “But we live in a not-so-perfect world. Things can happen. I share the implied worry of the authors that there is a plausible scenario that a single country, or a small group of countries, or even a wealthy individual could actually engage in solar geongineering deployment. That could result in exactly this kind of rapid start and rapid stop.”

This kind of geoengineering, the study finds, would have a massive impact on regional ecosystems. The researchers compared changes to temperature and precipitation in a scenario where a solar geoengineering project ran from 2020 to 2070 to one where it was not. The former recorded changes to local climates that were between two and four times more dramatic.

This would mean that species would be forced to travel in one direction to maintain a similar level of precipitation, and another to pursue the temperature they are accustomed to. It’s thought that areas that are rich in biodiversity, like tropical oceans and the Amazon basin, would be at the greatest risk.

“Certain trees grow in certain temperature zones, certain animals live in certain temperature zones, and so on – that’s the normal balance of things. If you change the temperature slowly, some animals can move with the temperature. We’ve seen some fish move north as the waters become warmer. Some plants can move too, but of course much slower.”

Look Before You Leap

The problem with a quick start and a quick termination of a solar geoengineering project is that even if species are able to adjust to the initial changes to their environment, further changes would come just a few decades later.

“Solar radiation management would have to be sustained and increased to offset increased greenhouse gas warming,” said Dennis L. Hartmann, a professor in the University of Washington’s department of atmospheric sciences, when he spoke to Futurism in November 2017. “If the solar radiation management is halted for any reason, then a rapid warming would result, with likely catastrophic consequences.”

One of the biggest challenges in implementing solar geoengineering is the fact that any project would have to be subject to political proceedings spanning decades. It could only ever come to fruition if there was an international agreement to pursue these changes, at which point an institution would have to be put in place to ensure that it’s upheld.

The Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative maintains that further exploration of the risks and benefits, and a shared governance framework are prerequisites for any deployment of solar geoengineering. This is because, they say, the consequences of a rapid deployment are far from the only potential problem.

“This [study] feeds in to exactly what is needed,” said Pasztor. “It’s just one of many, many issues where we need to know more, but this is clearly in that direction, so I salute this kind of study.”

The post Our Attempts to Reverse Climate Change With Geoengineering Could Leave the Planet Worse Off Than When We Started appeared first on Futurism.


Bathrooms are getting smarter, for better or worse

Getting up from the toilet after a satisfying bowel movement, you walk right over to the sink and start washing your hands. "Alexa, flush my toilet," you say while reaching for your toothbrush. Your mirror starts displaying your schedule for the day,…
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Robocalls were worse than ever in 2017

Complaints about automated telemarketing calls jumped steeply last year, and have quintupled since 2009, according to a recent FTC report. The report says that in fiscal year 2017, the agency received over 375,000 complaints per month about automated robocalls, up from only 63,000 per month in 2009. That’s a total of 4.5 million robocall complaints, plus an additional 2.5 million complaints about live telemarketing calls. For comparison, there were 3.4 million robocalls and 1.8 million live calls in 2016. (The FCC also regulates robocalls, but has received far fewer complaints — only 185,000 since August of 2016.)

The report says that robocalls are steadily increasing because of cheap access to internet calling services and autodialing,…

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Deception on the internet is nothing new, but you’re right, it is getting worse

I’m not calling it “fake news,” because that term has been hijacked by Donald Trump to refer to news he disagrees with.

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

We’re just digesting and analyzing the impact to the nation of being exposed to untruthful news stories. (Note: I’m following Dan Gillmor’s advice and not using “fake news,” because that term has been hijacked by Donald Trump to refer to news he disagrees with.) And while this may be the most severe example of being misled by the Internet, it’s certainly not the only. In fact, the internet is filled with cases whose sole purpose is to trick and deceive us under the guise of offering useful information.

One pervasive example is when searching for ratings on various products. There’s a vast number of sites that purport to provide objective analyses and ratings of products. The sites are titled with names such as, but are often sites created to tout one product over another, or to just provide a list of products with links to buy, in exchange for referral fees.

A search for “Best iPhone cables” finds one top choice (paid-for position), “BestReviews.Guide,” a site that reviews numerous products. There’s no explanation of how they rate, but in their disclaimer, they write, “BestReviews. The guide provides information for general information purposes and does not recommend particular products or services.”

But pseudo-reviews are not confined to mysterious companies. Business Insider offers reviews called “Insider Picks.” Many of these reviews are filled with words but do little to explain the basis for their ratings.

What’s motivating all of these review sites? The opportunity to monetize them by receiving kickbacks or referral fees when someone clicks to buy, primarily from Amazon. You can examine the link that takes you to Amazon to see the code added to the normal link. Commission range up to 10 percent, with an average of about 5 percent.

And here’s another example of deception and trickery on the web. I experienced a problem with QuickBooks on my Mac, and looked for a phone number to get help. There was no phone number in the app, so I searched online. Up came an 800 number, using Google’s search and a Website titled “QuickBooks 800 Help Line.” I called it, got a seemingly helpful technician, and he readily identified the cause of my problem. He said he needed to install the QuickBooks utility software on my computer to remove some bad files. As I started to allow this, I hesitated and asked if there is was any charge. He said there is a $ 300 charge for the utility.

That’s when I checked with my daughter, using a second phone line — coincidentally, she’s an Intuit manager. She confirmed after a quick call to the head of customer support that I was not speaking to Intuit, but an imposter. I quickly hung up and later discussed this with an executive at Intuit. Their policy, like many companies, had been to hide their customer-service number because they were not equipped to handle the volume of calls. She said they never anticipated what I experienced and, perhaps, as a result, their phone number pops up at the top of a search.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was doing a story on Google’s customer support, which is a major consideration when buying their new phones. Searching for a support number brought up many sites purporting to be Google support, but no Google number. One prominent site is “” with the headline “Unlimited Gmail support” and a phone number, and this paragraph:

“Phone Support-one can reach the Google Technical Support service by dialing their customer service number which is completely free of cost and our customer care is available 24/7*35 days. You just need to call on the Google Support Phone Number, and you will get all the solutions to your problems.”

Of course, it takes you to a GTech number. And notice the poor grammar.

These misleading support sites are still rampant, taking advantage of those looking for help and information.

This is probably not a revelation to most of us in the tech community that once laughed about the Nigerian scams, but like deceptive news stories, the players are getting more sophisticated at deception.

Phil Baker is a product development expert, author and journalist covering consumer technology. He has developed scores of products for companies, including Apple, Seiko, Polaroid, Barnes & Noble, Polycom, Proxima, ThinkOutside and Pono Music. Baker is the author of “From Concept to Consumer,” a former columnist for the San Diego Transcript and founder of Techsperts Inc. Follow him at Baker on Tech and reach him @pbaker.

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