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Amazon gets restraining order to block Microsoft work on Pentagon JEDI

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A federal judge Thursday ordered a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract, which was awarded to Microsoft, in response to a suit filed by Amazon. Shares of Microsoft fell on the news, while Amazon’s stock was down slightly.

A court notice announcing the injunction was filed on Thursday but wasn’t public. It’s unclear why the documents were sealed.

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract is intended to modernize the Pentagon’s IT operations. The contract could be worth up to $10 billion for services rendered over as many as 10 years. Microsoft was awarded the contract on Oct. 25.

Amazon’s cloud-computing arm, Amazon Web Services, is instructed to earmark $42 million for any “costs and damages” that could be incurred in the event that the “injunction was issued wrongfully,” the filing states. Amazon must file a notice with the courts indicating it has obtained the $42 million by Feb. 20. Microsoft and Amazon must respond to the filing by Feb. 27.

Microsoft and the Department of Defense criticized the ruling.

Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, told CNBC in a statement: “While we are disappointed with the additional delay we believe that we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work to make sure those who serve our country can access the new technology they urgently require. We have confidence in the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft.”

Department of Defense spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert Carver said, “We are disappointed in today’s ruling and believe the actions taken in this litigation have unnecessarily delayed implementing DoD’s modernization strategy and deprived our warfighters of a set of capabilities they urgently need. However, we are confident in our award of the JEDI cloud contract to Microsoft and remain focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Amazon claimed ‘unimistakable bias’

Last month, AWS filed a formal motion asking the court to pause Microsoft’s work on the JEDI cloud contract, claiming the evaluation process included “clear deficiencies, errors and unmistakable bias.” The court granted that motion on Thursday.

In April, the Defense Department announced that Amazon and Microsoft were the two finalists to provide the contract, ruling out other contenders, such as IBM and Oracle. Then in July, President Donald Trump said he was looking into the contract after IBM and other companies protested the bidding process. Microsoft was ultimately awarded the contract last October.

Amazon has been protesting the move, saying that it was driven in part by Trump’s bias against the company. Trump often criticizes Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, claiming the newspaper unfairly covers his administration.

Court documents filed last December laid out in greater detail why AWS is challenging the decision. In them, AWS alleged Trump launched “behind-the-scenes attacks” against the company, which caused it to lose out on the cloud contract. AWS has called for the Defense Department to terminate the award and conduct another review of the submitted proposals.

Earlier this week, Amazon said in newly unsealed court documents that it’s looking to depose Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Defense Secretary James Mattis as part of its protest of the JEDI cloud contract award. Amazon argues that it needs to hear from Trump to learn the scope of his involvement in the bidding process.

Amazon’s top spokesperson Jay Carney told CNBC on Wednesday that the company is protesting the decision to make sure the award process was “free of political interference.”

“All we’re trying to do through this protest and this request for a legal review is to ensure that a proper decision was made on behalf of U.S. taxpayers,” Carney, a former press secretary for President Barack Obama, told CNBC when asked about Amazon’s move to depose Trump.

Microsoft has been staffing up in preparation for working on the JEDI project, despite Amazon’s protest. The company made attempts to lure talent from defense contractors and other companies, while there were numerous job openings for people with security clearances. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, told CNBC that the company was “moving even faster” since the JEDI contract was awarded.



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Rising Kashmir

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Feb 19, 2020 | Dr. Rajkumar Singh

The United States of America took a lion’s share of interest in Kashmir because New Delhi and Islamabad were face to fact on the issue. US policy makers are highly pragmatic, highly cynical. They believed that through an intelligent exploitation of the Pakistani card they can exercise pressure on India. India is democratic, and tolerant; a society that wished not to confront or attack US policies and also hopes to receive from it hitech technology transfers.

Regarding the “core” issue of Kashmir there is a wide gulf between New Delhi and Islamabad on the one hand and New Delhi-Washington on the other. Pakistan’s single minded and unchanging pursuit had been to oppose and damage India in whatever manner feasible. India insists that the access of Kashmir to India is final and irrevocable.

While the US, similar to Islamabad has maintained that it is a disputed territory. India asserts that Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India of his own free will and that in any case he had the sovereign right to decide which domination he wished to join.

Original US views on Kashmir

There is a widely held view in the US, shared by the State Department that the accession took place under duress and at the very least needs to be revalidated by some sort of reference to the people. Pakistan had been famous, for the decades, as an ally of US, and eventually a frontline state in its crusade against communism.

The fallout of this on the Kashmir dispute was to distort each and every interpretation of events in Kashmir in a way that weakened India’s case at the UN and strengthened Pakistan’s. There is thus a well-founded backlog of distrust that has to be dispelled if the US is to be accepted as a mediator by the Indian public.

On several occasions the US has offered mediation and Pakistan sought Washington’s mediation/intervention in solving the problem. But New Delhi has been of the opinion that bilateral issues should not be solved through mediation of the third party. Coinciding with the Male meeting between Gujral and Sharif, in May 1997 reports from London and Washington spoke of Jammu and Kashmir being on the agenda of the Blair-Clinton talks.

The Beijing regime made extra loud promises of augmented military supplies during the Pakistani President’s visit to China. In an effort to patch-up the differences between India and Pakistan having accepted New Delhi’s position Clinton proposed a meeting with I.K. Gujral to be held during the UN General Assembly session.

Since Pakistan has long been insisting on US intervention in the Kashmir “dispute” the entire rescheduling appeared to be a ploy to hold some kind of a tripartite meeting of the heads of Government of three countries. 

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan, as a part of its strategy paid his four-day visit to China where he discussed the Kashmir issue with China, who has been carefully watching the Indo-Pak talks had expressed optimism that New Delhi and Islamabad would make unremitting efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, thereby normalising  bilateral relations.

US Presidential efforts

President Clinton, before his scheduled meeting with I. K. Gujral on 22 September 1997 laid stress on good Indo-Pak ties. He was also urged in a letter by Dan Burton, a Republican Congressman and  other that his administration should devote “greater attention” to South Asia and help “facilitate a resolution of the Kashmir problem on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Clinton and Gujral had an extremely warm and cordial 30-minute-plus meeting that engendered a pleasantly amiable ambience for the discussions. The US President sought to remove India’s apprehensions by declaring that his country had no intention to interfere in its problems with Pakistan, an apparent reference to the Kashmir issue.

When asked to a specific query, a senior State Department official said the two leaders were aware of the sensitivities on the subject. He made it quite clear that the US was very careful not to interfere in any way in the outstanding issues India had with Pakistan, although the US strongly supported the Indo-Pak dialogue that was underway.

Washington made a fresh offer when Pakistan Foreign Minister visited USA, to assist India and Pakistan to resolve their differences but reaffirmed that it has “no intention to interfere” in the on-going bilateral dialogue.

The United States of America in an important decision branded the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the Pakistan based terrorist group promoting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Hailing the decision as a “welcome recognition” of the ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir the External Affairs Ministry hoped that Washington would follow up the decision by recognising “the true nature” of other similar terrorist groups operating from Pakistan.    

The Indian officials also felt that as a next logical step Pakistan should at least be returned to the US State Department’s watch-list of states which are believed to sponsor terrorism if not declare it a ‘rogue’ nation. In an Indo-US dialogue held in October 1997 the US Government acknowledged the seriousness of the problem of cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Other supportive factors

Further in a fresh move Nawaz Sharif during his visit to China in February 1998 reiterated in familiar Pakistani stand on Kashmir and said Jammu and Kashmir was the primary cause of conflict between India and Pakistan. “It remains the flash point threatening regional peace and security.” 

However, Pakistani premier failed to garner Beijing’s support against New Delhi and Kashmir issue never figured in any of the statements made by top Chinese leadership during the visit. Perhaps, Beijing was careful not to annoy India too much in the wake of renewed political and trade ties between Beijing and  New Delhi after painstaking efforts from both sides.

Islamabad was mainly assisted by Beijing in the manufacturing of armaments as well as development of nuclear technology. Washington too, had been second to none in providing Pakistan’s defence system a strong footing.

Even today despite its efforts for disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, US continued to be an important ally of Islamabad. The United States, even evades toreact when Beijing used to supply defence related equipments to Pakistan.

At present it is an established fact that Islamabad is being helped by China and USA, for the reasons, suited to each country. With active support of the Beijing, Pakistan is making serious efforts to tip its missiles with nuclear warheads and is building a missile factory. Chinese experts were working on guidance and control systems, solid fuel and M-11 missile variants. It had also trained Pakistani personnel on assembling and use of the M-11 missile.

In the series Pakistan test fired two missile systems—a surface-to-air missile named Azna and another anti-tank guided missile, Baktar Shikan at a firing range. Even earlier, in June 1997, Pakistan test fired its medium range surface-to-surface Hatf-III missile which reportedly had a range of nearly 800 kms.  Although Pakistani spokesman in a statement said that they were a routine affair and it has no high military significance.

 

 

Author is head of Department of Political Science, B.N.Mandal University, Main Campus, Madhepura. Bihar

 





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Olay says it will stop skin retouching in its ads by the end of the year

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Olay Regenerist video.

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Procter & Gamble skincare brand Olay said Wednesday it will stop retouching skin in its advertising by 2021.

As part of the commitment, which Olay announced at an event in New York City on Wednesday, the company will kick off a new print campaign called “My Olay” featuring unretouched images of Busy Philipps, Denise Bidot and Lilly Singh. Olay works with ad agency Badger & Winters, which made Olay’s recent Super Bowl ad featuring all women.

Olay’s “Skin Promise” mark will appear on ads in the U.S. and Canada to show that the skin on women featured has not been retouched, the brand said. The “Skin Promise” will expand to all of the brand’s ads on print, digital, out-of-home and with influencer partners by 2021.

Kate DiCarlo, Olay’s senior communications leader, said during a panel at the announcement that the brand had tested out the new no-retouching policy in its Super Bowl ad. “We tested ourselves with the Super Bowl shoot; Our Super Bowl shoot was also unretouched,” she said. 

Brands have been criticized in the past for editing photos in ad imagery. Just over ten years ago, Olay came under fire in the UK for a magazine ad for a beauty product featuring English model and actress Twiggy, which the company admitted had been retouched. Unilever and its agency Ogilvy & Mather came under similar scrutiny after claims that it too had retouched photos of models as part of “Real Beauty” ad campaign for Dove (Unilever later told Ad Age that photos in one campaign had been altered to “remove dust and do color correction,” but not to change the “women’s natural beauty”).

But in the years since, some companies have been moving away from altered photos in their ad imagery. CVS Pharmacy said in January 2018 it would require disclosure for beauty imagery that has been “materially altered” by the end of 2020. It also introduced a “Beauty Mark,” or watermark to show imagery that had not been materially altered, referring to changing a person’s size, shape, proportion, skin color, eye color, wrinkles or other characteristics. Olay says its new standards align with those of CVS’s “Beauty Mark.”

In 2018, Dove launched its “No Digital Distortion Mark” for all branded content globally to represent that images are not distorted to make changes like removing wrinkles or cellulite (though it says it can remove a few things like lipstick or food particles from teeth). The company made its Dove Real Beauty Pledge in 2017 to declare that it never makes alterations to distort the physical appearance of the people in its ads or brand visuals.

Other companies have seen success with Photoshop-free ad imagery, including American Eagle’s Aerie, which started running campaigns with unedited photos models in 2014. The brand’s body-positive messaging helped it gain ground from competitor Victoria’s Secret. 

During the panel, actress Philipps spoke about working with the brand after having images of her edited in the past. 

“Contractually, I am not allowed to have Botox or filler,” she said. “They’re not only just not retouching, but this is my face as it’s lived and as it is, and I’m really proud of that. I love that part of the contract. So when I saw that, I knew they’re really serious about representing lots of different women at different ages with different types of skin, and that’s what I would like to be a part of.” 



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Speed science: The risks of swiftly spreading coronavirus research | News

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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – One scientific post suggests links between the new coronavirus and AIDS, a second says it may have passed to people via snakes, while a third claims it is a pathogen from outer space.

The emergence in China of a new human coronavirus that is causing an epidemic of flu-like disease has sparked a parallel viral spread: science – ranging from robust to rogue  – is being conducted, posted and shared at an unprecedented rate.

While speedy scientific analysis is highly useful if it’s good, flawed or misleading science can sow panic and may make a disease epidemic worse by prompting false policy moves or encouraging risky behaviour.

A Reuters analysis found that at least 153 studies – including epidemiological papers, genetic analyses and clinical reports – examining every aspect of the disease, now called COVID-19 – have been posted or published since the start of the outbreak. These involved 675 researchers from around the globe.

By comparison, during the 2003 SARS outbreak, it took more than a year for even half that number of studies to be published

The risks of swiftly spreading coronavirus research: https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-RESEARCH/0100B5ES3MG/index.html.

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet group of science and medical journals, says he’s instituted “surge capacity” staffing to sift through a flood of 30 to 40 submissions of scientific research a day to his group alone.

Much of this work, according to those watching its flow and content, is rigorous and useful. Vaccine developers, clinicians, diagnostic makers and policy agencies have snapped up genetic codes, phylogenetic trees and epidemiological models to help them start work on catching the virus and containing its spread.

But much of it is raw. With most fresh science being posted online without being peer-reviewed, some of the material lacks scientific rigour, experts say, and some has already been exposed as flawed, or plain wrong, and has been withdrawn.

“The public will not benefit from early findings if they are flawed or hyped,” said Tom Sheldon, a science communications specialist at Britain’s non-profit Science Media Centre.

“PREPRINTS”

The threat posed by the new coronavirus requires that information be shared quickly and freely “without being yoked to peer review”, Sheldon said – and that is causing problems.

The outbreak has in particular encouraged “preprints” – the practice of researchers immediately posting online their findings without external checks, scrutiny or validation.

The Reuters analysis scanned material on Google Scholar and on three preprint servers bioRxiv, medRxiv and ChemRxiv. Of the 153 studies identified, some 60% were preprints.

Preprints allow their authors to contribute to the scientific debate and can foster collaboration, but they are not peer-reviewed and can also bring researchers almost instant, international media and public attention.

“Some of the material that’s been put out – on preprint servers for example – clearly has been… unhelpful,” said The Lancet’s Horton. “Whether it’s fake news or misinformation or rumour-mongering, it’s certainly contributed to fear and panic.”

BioRxiv has now added a yellow banner warning label across the top of any new coronavirus research which reads: “A reminder: these are preliminary reports that have not been peer-reviewed. They should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice (or) health-related behaviour, or be reported in news media as established information.”

One example was work by scientists in New Delhi, India, who on Jan. 31 posted research pointing to what they called “uncanny” similarities between the new coronavirus and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The work was criticised by scientists around the world and swiftly retracted, but had already featured in more than 17,000 tweets and been picked up by 25 news outlets.

Another was a submission sent to The Lancet by a researcher working in Britain who claims the source of the new coronavirus may be “viral in-fall” from outer space.

And a study published online in the Journal of Medical Virology on Jan. 22, now known as “the snake paper”, led to a rush of rumours that the China disease outbreak may be a kind of “snake flu”. Leading genetic experts cast swift doubt on the paper’s findings, but not before it had gone viral.

PRESSURE

Part of the problem is pressure. To be first with a scientific finding is good for profile and for future funding – especially in the context of a fast-developing international disease outbreak.

“Due to the evolving nature of the (coronavirus) outbreak, scientists are often under pressure to communicate their findings in real time,” said Efstathios Giotis, an infectious disease expert at Imperial College London.

All research claims ought to be rigorously and independently scrutinised by experts in the field, but that is often not happening with work on the new coronavirus, Giotis said.

Magdalena Skipper, editor-in-chief of Nature, said her group of journals, like The Lancet’s, was working hard to “select and filter” submitted manuscripts.

“We will never compromise the rigour of our peer review, and papers will only be accepted once … they have been thoroughly assessed,” she said.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Additional reporting by Simon Scarr and Manas Sharma; Editing by Gareth Jones)





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