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Apple’s app store eyed in U.S. Congress antitrust probe

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Apple's app store eyed in U.S. Congress antitrust probe

(Reuters) – The U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Friday requested information from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Tim Cook as part of an investigation of competition in digital markets.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Apple is seen at a store in Zurich, Switzerland January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The lawmakers in a letter sought information related to Apple’s App Store, which is the only way that users of devices such as the iPhone can put third-party software on their phones. Apple takes a cut of the sales that developers make when tapping its payment systems on its App Store. bit.ly/2kghD2J

But Apple is also a major player in its own marketplace, with in-house apps such as Apple Music competing directly with rivals such as Spotify Technology SA (SPOT.N). Other apps that do not compete with Apple, such as Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N), are allowed to take in-app payments without paying Apple a cut.

Spotify and other developers have alleged that Apple engages in anticompetitive behavior with its App Store, while Apple executives have maintained that they are focused on providing a better user experience for people who buy the company’s devices.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter from U.S. lawmakers. The committee asked for executive communications on the following topics.

APP STORE

-The decision to remove parental control apps Qustodio, Freedom, Kidslox, Mobicip and OurPact.

-How the search algorithm for the App Store ranks results and executive discussions examining whether that algorithm should be changed. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both performed analyses that found Apple’s own apps dominated the results for common search terms, and Apple changed its formula the same month as the Journal published its investigation. nyti.ms/2mhwjPV on.wsj.com/2Kc0vnZ

-Apple’s policies around which apps or categories of apps must use its payment systems on the App Store and which are exempt.

-Whether apps can include links to payment systems other than Apple’s. Spotify complained to European regulators that Apple barred it from providing links to promotions that are vital to its business. [nL8N2102FB]

-How Apple arrived at its policies on the cut of revenue it takes from app developers, including executive discussions around the precise share taken. Apple charges 15-30% to sellers of “digital goods” like movies and video game credits but does not take a fee from sellers of physical goods and services, which has led companies like Amazon (AMZN.O) to not sell e-books on Apple devices.

-How Apple decided whether to allow users to set non-Apple apps as the default for applications such as web browsers, maps, e-mail clients and music players.

-Whether to allow non-Apple app stores on its devices. Both consumers and developers have sued Apple over its refusal to allow apps on the iPhone outside the app store, saying the practice raises software prices for consumers and lowers developer profits. [nL2N23B0TG] [nL2N22P0IR]

-How Apple decided to build its own apps with similar functions to third-party apps Clue, Duet Display and SwiftKey. Developers of some of those apps recently told the Washington Post that Apple’s outsized power made it harder for their apps to compete after Apple copied their ideas. wapo.st/2lMVjhM

-Whether third-party web browsers in the App Store must use an Apple-backed technology called WebKit. Apple has used its WebKit requirement to limit the advertising tracking that its rivals Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) can perform on its devices. [nL4N22Y3IY]

REPAIRS, REPLACEMENTS AND RESELLING

-Details on how Apple has restricted third-party repairs of its devices, including any rules that its authorized service providers must follow.

-Apple’s decision in December 2017 to offer discounted battery replacements, including how that move would affect iPhone sales. Consumers have filed dozens of lawsuits accusing Apple of throttling battery performance in older devices to compel users to buy a new phone.

-Apple’s decision to launch an “Independent Repair Provider Program,” including which parts the company offers and at what prices. After years or resisting “right to repair” laws that would require Apple to provide parts to independent shops, Apple changed course and implemented a program to do so – but some parts such as circuit boards remain unavailable. [nL2N25P0TK]

-The decision to sell Apple products on Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) site, including the decision to limit the resellers that can sell Apple products on Amazon. Smaller resellers of Apple products told The Verge the move hurt their businesses.

bit.ly/2VYLTRy

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in ‘SMEAR story’

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in 'SMEAR story'

President Trump blasted The New York Times over its supposed bombshell report on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, calling on “everybody” involved in the “smear” to resign.

“I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story, and while you’re at it, the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is just as phony!” Trump tweeted Monday evening.

“They’ve taken the Old Grey Lady and broken her down, destroyed her virtue and ruined her reputation… She can never recover, and will never return to Greatness, under current Management. The Times is DEAD, long live The New York Times!”

NEW YORK TIMES CRITICIZED FROM BOTH SIDES OVER NOW-REVISED KAVANAUGH ALLEGATIONS

Late Sunday, The New York Times walked back an explosive report about a resurfaced allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh from his college days. The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, adapted from their forthcoming book, alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party.

However, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway — who reviewed an advance copy of the book – flagged an omission and the paper eventually revised the controversial story after being lampooned on social media over the gaffe.

The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault. The newspaper also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.

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Trump was asked about whether anyone from The Times should be “fired” over the controversy. He called it a “fair” question but didn’t directly give an answer.

“I think The New York Times made another terrible mistake,” Trump said. “It’s a shame that a thing like that could happen… They used to have a thing called fact-checking. They don’t have fact-checking anymore.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will hold one of his signature rallies on Monday night in New Mexico, a longtime Democratic stronghold his campaign has added to the list of states it hopes to win in the November 2020 election.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The last time New Mexico supported a Republican in a presidential race was 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by 8 percentage points three years ago.

Trump’s campaign sees an opening in the state with Latinos, who it believes will swing his way despite tough immigration policies, including a crackdown on migrants from Central America and a push to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats have criticized those efforts. But a Trump campaign aide said the Republican president could win over Latinos who came to the United States legally and believe others should, too.

“Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN. Your Border Wall is getting stronger each and every day — see you in a few hours!” Trump tweeted ahead of his trip.

The campaign also views Trump’s support for the fossil fuel industry as a plus in the state, which is rich in oil and natural gas, said the campaign aide, who declined to be named. Trump is likely to discuss energy on Monday night.

Trump won the White House in 2016 with electoral votes from traditional Republican-leaning states and some surprise Democratic-leaning ones.

The Trump campaign says it wants New Mexico’s five electoral votes to augment the 306 electoral votes the president received in his first election, not create a separate path for victory. A candidate must get 270 electoral votes nationally to win.

Democrats, who did well in New Mexico during the 2018 mid-term elections, are skeptical.

“Last cycle, Democrats crushed Republicans in New Mexico because voters are fed up with President Trump’s toxic healthcare agenda and broken promises,” said David Bergstein, a communications director for the Democratic National Committee focused on battleground states.

“We take nothing for granted, but this GOP strategy looks like they’re concerned about a realistic pathway to 270 electoral votes,” he added.

Trump won electoral-vote-rich swing states such as Ohio and Florida in 2016, while also picking up Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from Democrats.

The campaign says it is eyeing more pickups in 2020, including Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nevada.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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California adds Iowa to ‘travel ban’ over refusal to fund gender transitions

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California adds Iowa to 'travel ban' over refusal to fund gender transitions

California announced Monday that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding “travel ban” list because of that state’s new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.

The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.

Becerra’s authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The list already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

WATCH: LIBERAL POLICIES BLAMED FOR WORSENING CALIFORNIA’S HOMELESSNESS CRISIS

Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state’s sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.

At the federal level, the Trump administration has disputed the idea that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under law include protections for gender identity. The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that “gender identity” was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.

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Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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