Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up Big Everything

“mergers don’t just affect consumers: “The world has changed for those workers,” Warren said.”

“Studies have shown that as markets become more concentrated, wages stagnate.”

“Under Warren’s new bill, mergers over a certain size or that consolidate the market too much are forbidden. And consummated mergers that have harmed competition, workers, consumers, or competitors can be broken up.”

Apple broke Facebook’s ad machine. Who’s going to fix it?

“Facebook says changes Apple made that affect how ads work on iOS apps — namely, that it’s now much harder for app-makers and advertisers to track user behavior — will cost it $10 billion in revenue this year.

For context: Facebook is still making an enormous amount of money from advertising — analyst Michael Nathanson estimates the company will generate $129 billion in ad revenue in 2022. But that would mean its ad business will only grow about 12 percent this year, compared to a 36 percent increase the previous year. Wall Street has prized Facebook for its ability to grow at a rocket velocity, and now that rocket may be sputtering.”

Russia Deploys a Mystery Munition in Ukraine

“American intelligence officials have discovered that the barrage of ballistic missiles Russia has fired into Ukraine contain a surprise: decoys that trick air-defense radars and fool heat-seeking missiles.

The devices are each about 1 foot long, shaped like a dart and white with an orange tail, according to an American intelligence official. They are released by the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles that Russia is firing from mobile launchers across the border, the official said, when the missile senses that it has been targeted by air defense systems.

Each is packed with electronics and produces radio signals to jam or spoof enemy radars attempting to locate the Iskander-M, and contains a heat source to attract incoming missiles. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters, described the devices on the condition of anonymity.”

“The devices are similar to Cold War decoys called “penetration aids,” the intelligence official said, that have accompanied nuclear warheads since the 1970s and were designed to evade anti-missile systems and allow individual warheads to reach their targets. The incorporation of the devices into weapons such as the Iskander-M that have conventional warheads has not been previously documented in military arsenals.”

Facebook’s ‘Monopoly’ Was Always Doomed

“Facebook is still a behemoth, and it has a long way to fall before that will cease to be true (if it ever is). I’m not suggesting we start writing eulogies yet. But the U.S. (and European Union) antitrust push against Facebook and other big tech companies assumes—and often explicitly argues—that Facebook’s power is permanent and its market share irreversible. Recent developments and ancient history show that’s very obviously not the case.”

3G must die so 5G can live

“It’s time to say goodbye to 3G, the wireless technology that gave our phones near-instantaneous access to the web and helped make everything from the Apple App Store to Uber an everyday part of our lives. More than two decades after its launch, wireless service providers are shutting down 3G to clear the way for its faster and flashier successor: 5G.
The expansion of 5G is welcome news for the growing number of people with 5G-enabled devices, and it could be a critical step toward more advanced technologies, like self-driving cars and virtual reality. But the 3G shutdown will also disable an entire generation of tech: everything from 3G phones to car crash notification systems. For the people who rely on these devices, this transition will cut off a cellular network they’ve depended on for years, and in some cases, disconnect crucial safety equipment.

“The number of 3G devices has been decreasing steadily,” Tommaso Melodia, the director of Northeastern’s Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things, told Recode. “Now it’s at the point where carriers are starting to say, ‘It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to continue to use these precious frequency channels for 3G. Let’s turn it off.’”

Ideally, wireless providers could keep both 3G and 5G networks up and running, but the physics of the radio spectrum that cellular technology relies on means that companies have to make a choice. The radio spectrum includes a wide range of frequencies, which are used to connect everything from AM/FM radios to wifi networks, and is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Because there are a limited number of frequencies the agency sets aside for cellular service, wireless providers have to divide up the spectrum that they’re allocated to run multiple networks, including their 3G, 4G, 5G, and eventually 6G, services.”

Biden’s H-1B Conundrum

“I spoke with current and former H-1B holders, U.S. workers, union reps, academics, lobbyists, recruiters and immigration lawyers on both sides of the political spectrum. While they differed on the specifics, many said that the program is used not to fill labor shortages, as corporations insist, but to cut costs. Critics say that businesses regularly game the system to pay H-1B visa holders below market wages, both exploiting foreign workers and stacking the deck against American job seekers.

As a candidate, President Joe Biden promised reform, saying “high skilled temporary visas should not be used to disincentivize recruiting workers already in the U.S. for in-demand occupations.” Now in office, his administration is considering increasing the wages companies have to pay H-1B workers, which would reduce the incentive for companies to hire foreign workers. This summer, it quietly — and unsuccessfully — defended in court a Trump-era rule that would have replaced the lottery system currently used to allocate visas with one that prioritizes the highest-paying jobs. Both Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa had long been calling for the change, saying in a joint letter that the “H-1B visa program is greatly in need of reform.”

But full scale reform is going to prove tricky for a president who campaigned as a champion for both workers and immigrants. Because while many pro-labor groups say the program lines the pockets of the likes of Google and Facebook at the expense of American workers, immigration advocates, along with business interests, oppose measures to rein it in, saying that doing so will hurt American competitiveness by narrowing access to a badly needed pipeline of high-skilled talent. Politically, H-1B reform is pegging two powerful Democratic constituencies against each other. Meanwhile, getting anything through a sharply divided Congress won’t be easy.”

“H-1B reform could drastically change the landscape of business and immigration in the U.S. There are roughly 600,000 H-1B visa holders in the country, the vast majority from China and India. Most of these jobs are in tech, but companies can also use the program to hire, say, Spanish-language teachers or doctors with special skills.”

“Proponents of the H1-B program say that U.S. firms need access to foreign STEM talent in order to remain competitive, an argument that hinges on the existence of a domestic labor shortage in the tech world. Unemployment in the tech sector is significantly lower than it is for the economy overall, which business groups say is evidence that domestic tech workers are doing pretty well and foreign workers are mostly filling demand above and beyond what the domestic workforce can supply.

The problem is, historically it’s not clear that there has been a labor shortage in tech. Skeptics point to the fact that median wages in the sector haven’t increased everywhere in the country, or all that dramatically. “What happens when there’s something in short supply?” said Ron Hira, an associate professor of political science at Howard University and research associate with the pro-labor Economic Policy Institute (EPI). “You have a price mechanism. In this case, it would be wages. So, anything in shortage you’d see wages going through the roof.” The fact that there haven’t been dramatic wage spikes, he says, suggests that claims of labor shortages in the U.S. are overblown.

Instead, Hira and others believe that corporations have become accustomed to paying below market wages through use of the H1-B program. Employers are required to pay H-1B workers the higher of either the actual wage paid to a worker in a comparable role at their company, or the average wage for similar workers based on occupation, geography and experience. Employers select this “prevailing wage” from four levels set by the Department of Labor.

But an analysis by EPI found that, in 2019, employers certified 60 percent of all H-1B jobs at the two lowest levels — leading to questions about whether corporations were classifying these jobs at artificially low levels to avoid paying higher wages.”

“Wages can be pushed down by other factors, too. H-1B visas are held by employers, which means there are restrictions on the free movement of labor. Foreign workers can’t simply leave the company if their wages aren’t competitive. “I felt like I had no option to negotiate whatsoever,” said a Pleasanton, Calif.-based former H-1B worker and now-green card holder who didn’t want to be identified for fear of professional repercussions. He guesses he was paid 25 to 35 percent less than his domestic counterparts as an H-1B worker.

“People who have been here for 10 years, or even some people who were born and brought up here who’ve been in good jobs making six figures, suddenly they’re losing their jobs just because [their employers] found somebody from India who would do it for $50,000,” said Choudhary.”

“Some argue that the H1-B visa program lifts all boats: There is research showing that an increase in foreign STEM workers as a share of a city’s total employment increases wages for domestic workers more broadly. But for many workers, any aggregate benefits of the program are far outweighed by the costs. In 2015, Disney famously fired over 200 U.S. workers, some of whom said they were made to train their H1-B-holder replacements.”

“One of the biggest arguments made by tech and other companies against making it harder for foreigners to come in on an H-1B visa is that it would dissuade the “best and brightest” from coming to the U.S. But several of the people I spoke with said that’s not always the case. “It’s a mixed bag,” said the Pleasanton, Calif.-based former H-1B worker about the caliber of the H-1B visa holders he worked with.

In recent years, H-1Bs have been awarded by lottery because the number of visa applicants has far exceeded the annual cap. Immigration advocates say that this shows the scope of the need for high-skilled foreign workers. But critics say that has led to a proliferation of mediocre workers.

There’s also the problem of players who want to cheat the system.”

“H-1B visas are good for three years, after which workers may apply for an additional three year extension. After his six years were up, Vikram’s employer initiated the process of applying for a green card for him, but, because of an enormous backlog for people coming from India, the processing time was expected to last at least nine years.

Vikram decided it wasn’t worth it. He still works with his former employers — but now as part of his own business, which he runs from India, charging his American clients half the cost of a U.S. salary.”

““The focus on H-1B, as if it were the way that we get skilled workers into our economy — that’s an artifact of the misuse of the H-1B visa,” said Bruce Morrison, a former Democratic congressman who wrote the legislation that created the H1-B program. “The H-1B program is a non immigrant program. And non immigrant by definition is supposed to be temporary.”

His solution is to expand the current limit of 140,000 employment-based green cards per year. “We still have the same numerical limitations that we had in 1990,” said Morrison. Biden’s immigration bill includes a provision that would increase the number of employment-based green cards to 170,000.

“People who have green cards have a right to become citizens,” says Morrison. “They get to vote, they have the same rights as citizens, they can’t be exploited in a legal sense. These are real values.””

Satellite images show China built mock-ups of U.S. warships

“China’s massive military upgrade has emphasized countering the U.S. and other countries’ naval forces.

That includes the development of land, sea and air-launched missiles to repel and possibly sink opposing vessels, expressed most emphatically by the land-based DF-21D ballistic missile known as the “carrier killer.””

“The Pentagon..issued a report saying China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than U.S. officials predicted just a year ago. That appears designed to enable Beijing to match or surpass U.S. global power by midcentury, the report said.”

“China’s test of a hypersonic weapon capable of partially orbiting Earth before reentering the atmosphere and gliding on a maneuverable path to its target also surprised top U.S. military leaders. Beijing insisted it was testing a reusable space vehicle, not a missile, but the weapon system’s design is meant to evade U.S. missile defenses.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the test was “very close” to being a “Sputnik moment,” akin to the 1957 launching by the Soviet Union of the world’s first space satellite, which fed fears the United States had fallen behind technologically.”

Supply chain havoc is getting worse — just in time for holiday shopping

“Gadgets are particularly vulnerable to shortages because they include many different components. Consider all the parts that go into a PlayStation 5 or a new laptop, including their chips, outer shells, and screens. Many of these components require their own specialized manufacturing facilities, which are typically in different factories and often in different countries. For a device to be delivered on time, all of these parts need to be made in sync. Right now, that’s not happening.”

“Demand for these components has run up against efforts to contain Covid-19 in the countries where the production and assembly of many goods actually take place. Amid a recent delta variant outbreak and nationwide lockdown in Malaysia, the government designated electronics manufacturers critical businesses so that production could continue. In May, Vietnam directed vaccines directly to factory workers, while urging smartphone manufacturers working in the country, like Samsung, to do the same. (Vietnam’s Covid-19 challenges haven’t gone away: This past weekend, tens of thousands of workers fled the country’s commercial center after the government, which is still struggling to access vaccines, lifted pandemic lockdown restrictions.)”

““What will happen is that a phone will be delayed because they’re waiting on their plastic supplier, and the plastic supplier is waiting on the ingredient,” Penfield, the Syracuse professor, said. “It just takes one supplier — and it could be the base ingredient supplier — to fully screw up your supply chain.””

“All these problems mean that consumers are seeing rising prices and shipping delays for a wide range of products. So those looking ahead to the holiday shopping season might want to get an early start, and not just on consumer electronics.”