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Media sector seeks new powers to challenge Big Tech

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Big Tech firms are clobbering traditional news organizations, media representatives told lawmakers Tuesday, asking for new authority to allow the struggling sector to team up against online platforms.

The comments came as the House Judiciary Committee opened the first in what is expected to be a series of hearings examining the dominance of Big Tech in several economic sectors.

Tuesday’s hearing sought to focus on the plight of news organizations, which have struggled to keep up with the dominance of Facebook and Google in online advertising.

“In effect, a couple of dominant tech platforms are acting as regulators of the digital news industry,” said David Chavern of the News Media Alliance, previously known as the Newspaper Association of America.

“The result of the tech platforms’ regulation of the news industry has been to siphon revenue away from news organizations.”

But Chavern said that rather than push for a breakup, Congress should pass a law giving the media sector its own antitrust exemption to better compete with Big Tech.

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He cited the proposed Journalism Competition and Preservation Act as “an innovative, market-oriented solution” to the problem.

“Markets work best when different parties can negotiate with one another on reasonably even footing — and where both parties have some leverage to credibly withdraw from negotiations if the other side demands unreasonable or exploitative terms,” he said.

The bill “helps remedy this imbalance by allowing news organizations to bargain collectively against dominant tech platforms.”

David Pitofsky, general counsel at News Corp, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, offered similar remarks.

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“If publishers could band together they might be able to use their collective leverage to bring the platforms to the negotiating table. But doing so is made impossible by the antitrust laws,” Pitofsky said.

Pitofsky said he is hopeful for “reinvigorated antitrust enforcement” but noted that this would “require years of investigation and litigation.”

“In the interim, news publishers need a fighting chance. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is well-designed to help restore the proper balance between content generators and content distributors.”

Gene Kimmelman of the consumer group Public Knowledge said the news sector’s woes are deep but should be resolved through market forces.

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“We do not believe this problem will be solved by allowing more consolidation of power, whether among platforms or media,” Kimmelman said.

“And we believe exceptions to the antitrust laws should be a tool of last resort, if they are ever used. Enabling excess market power to challenge the existing dominant platforms does nothing to address the long term need to develop market forces that promote strong local journalism.”

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Mitch McConnell is hated even more than Trump — and Democrats may use that to sweep the 2020 elections

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arguably was everything President Donald Trump stood for politically long before Trump was even taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

Gallons of ink have been spilled about how he is a worse threat to democratic institutions than Trump. He has blocked any and all progressive reform, engineered a right-wing takeover of the federal courts, rewrote Senate rules to enforce GOP ideology, and did all in his power to undermine campaign finance and corruption laws. In the historical record, he is probably matched in his power and anti-democratic tendencies only by Joseph Gurney Cannon, the early 20th century House speaker who essentially ruled Congress with an iron fist.

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Iran says new US sanctions show talk offers hollow, block diplomacy

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Iran vehemently responded Tuesday to new US sanctions against its leaders, saying they showed Washington was "lying" about an offer of talks and marked the end of diplomacy with the Trump administration, amid an escalating regional standoff.

Washington blacklisted Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs on Monday, saying it would also sanction Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later in the week.

"At the same time as you call for negotiations you seek to sanction the foreign minister? It's obvious that you're lying," Rouhani said in a meeting with ministers, broadcast live on TV.

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Migrant children removed from ‘inhumane’ Texas detention centre

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A Texas congresswoman says the federal government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station near El Paso following reports that more than 300 children were detained in squalid conditions.

The U.S. government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas following reports that more than 300 children were detained there, caring for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.

Just 30 children remained at the station outside El Paso Monday, said Rep. Veronica Escobar after her office was briefed on the situation by an official with Customs and Border Protection.

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