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Sony, Microsoft, & Nintendo Say Chinese Tariffs Will Hurt the Gaming Industry

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  • President Donald Trump proposed increasing tariffs from 10% to 25% on Chinese imports in May.
  • In response to that news, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo wrote a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative saying that the move would hurt video game consumers and workers in the industry.
  • Hundreds of companies and business have taken a similar stance on the tariffs, evening testifying against the proposed plan at a public hearing held by the U.S. Trade Representatives.

The Letter

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, three of the biggest video game console manufacturers in the world, wrote a joint letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, arguing that the proposed tariffs on Chinese goods would negatively impact the gaming industry.

“As leading video game console manufacturers, we submit this separate submission to highlight the enormous impact and undue economic harm that proposed tariffs on video game consoles would have on the entire video game ecosystem,” the letter sent on June 17 reads.

Their response refers to a proposal from President Donald Trump that would increase tariffs from 10% to 25% on Chinese imports. All three companies make their game consoles in China, meaning they could be hit with the tariffs. They are asking to be removed from the long list of products that would be impacted by this policy.

The letter states that “over 96% of video game consoles imported into the United States were made in China,”  and says that 60% of Americans play video games daily. It also notes that in 2018, the video game industry brought in $43.4 billion in revenue to the U.S. However, a price increase from the tariffs would drive the cost of a console out of a price range that most American families can afford. 

The three rival companies also write about how the tariffs would not only impact video game consumers, but also those who work in the industry as well.  In 2018, video game publishers and developers employed over 65,000 workers at 2,700 different companies, according to Entertainment Software Association. The tariffs could put many of those jobs on the line. 

“The harm to the thousands of U.S.- based game and accessory developers who depend on console sales to generate demand for their products would be equally profound” the letter explains. 

It also includes a study from the economic group, Trade Partnership. Which shows, “even after accounting for new tariff revenue, the result is a net $350 million loss for the U.S. economy for each year the tariffs remain in effect, with the burden carried by U.S. consumers.”

While the companies did not mention what kind of increase an individual consumer may face, it is clear that these three rivals are worried about the tariffs. 

Other Companies 

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are not the only ones concerned about the proposed tariffs. Apple has also spoken out and sent their own letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, also on June 17. 

“U.S. tariffs on Apple’s products would result in a reduction of Apple’s U.S. economic contribution,” the tech company wrote. 

Dell, HP, Intel, and Microsoft sent a letter that same day and in it they explain, “the tariffs will harm U.S. technology leaders, hindering their ability to innovate and compete in a global marketplace” 

Earlier in June, the Trump administration conducted public hearings about the proposal in Washington D.C. According to reports, over 300 companies showed to testify against the tariffs.    

The Proposed Tariff Plan

The tariff increase was first proposed at the beginning of May and was set to take effect by June 1, but was delayed. The Trump administration announced the new deadline would be June 15, but yet again it was pushed back. 

The president told reporters at a press conference on June 12 that he has “no deadline. Nobody can quite figure it out.” 

On Wednesday, before leaving for Japan for the G20 Summit, President Trump said that a trade deal with China could be possible. However, reports say China is insisting the tariffs be lifted. China’s president, Xi Jinping, is also at the G20 Summit and is set to meet with President Trump on Saturday.

See what others are saying: (Tech Crunch) (Kotaku) (Business Insider)

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Facebook Is Reviewing More Than 2,200 Hours of Footage for Next-Gen AI 

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The project, which could prove to be revolutionary, is already raising some big privacy concerns. 


Facebook’s Next-Gen AI

Facebook announced Thursday that it has captured more than 2,200 hours of first-person video that it will use to train next-gen AI models.

The company said it aims to make the AI, called Ego4D, capable of understanding and identifying both real and virtual objects through a first-person perspective using smart glasses or VR headsets. In effect, that could potentially help users do everything from remembering where they placed forgotten items to recording others in secret. 

Facebook listed five key scenarios the project aims to tackle and gave real-world examples of how each may look for people who will eventually use the AI.

  • “What happened when?” With that scenario, Facebook gave the example, “Where did I leave my keys?”
  • “What am I likely to do next?” There, Facebook gave the example, “Wait, you’ve already added salt to this recipe.”
  • “What am I doing?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
  • “Who said what when?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
  • “Who is interacting with whom?” For example, “Help me better hear the person talking to me at this noisy restaurant.”

Facebook said the amount of footage it has collected is 20 times greater than any other data set used by the company.

Privacy Concerns

In the wake of recent controversy surrounding Facebook, it’s important to note that the footage wasn’t reaped from users. Instead, the company said it, and 13 university partners, compiled the footage from more than 700 participants around the world.

Still, that hasn’t alleviated all privacy concerns. 

In an article titled, “Facebook is researching AI systems that see, hear, and remember everything you do,” The Verge writer James Vincent said that although the project’s guidelines seem practical, “the company’s interest in this area will worry many.”

In addition to the recent testimony and data leaks from whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook has also faced other privacy issues, as well as billions in fines

Vincent pointe out that the AI announcement doesn’t mention anything in the way of privacy or removing data for people who may not want to be recorded.

A Facebook spokesperson later assured Vincent that privacy safeguards will be introduced to the public in the future.

“For example, before AR glasses can enhance someone’s voice, there could be a protocol in place that they follow to ask someone else’s glasses for permission, or they could limit the range of the device so it can only pick up sounds from the people with whom I am already having a conversation or who are in my immediate vicinity,” the spokesperson said.

Among positive reception, some believe the tech could be revolutionary for helping people around the house, as well as for teaching robots to more rapidly learn about their surroundings.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNBC) (Axios)

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FDA Issues Its First E-Cigarette Authorization Ever

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The authorization only applies to tobacco-flavored products, as the FDA simultaneously rejected several sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges. 


FDA Approves E-Cigarette

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an e-cigarette pen sold under the brand name Vuse on Tuesday, as well as two tobacco-flavored cartridges that can be used with the pen.

This marks the first time the FDA has ever authorized the use of vaping products. In a news release, the agency said it made the decision because “the authorized products’ aerosols are significantly less toxic than combusted cigarettes based on available data.”

“The manufacturer’s data demonstrates its tobacco-flavored products could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products — either completely or with a significant reduction in cigarette consumption — by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals,” the agency added. 

The company that owns Vuse, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, also submitted several sweet and fruit-flavored pods for review; however, those were all rejected. While the FDA did not specify which flavors it rejected, it did note that it has yet to make a decision on whether to allow menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, including ones sold under Vuse.

FDA Is Reviewing All Vape Products Still on the Market

In January 2020, the FDA banned pre-filled pods with sweet and fruity flavors from being sold. While other e-cigarette related products, including some forms of flavored vapes, were allowed to stay on the market for the time being, they were only able to do so if they were submitted for FDA review.

The FDA’s primary issue with fruity cartridges stems from statistics showing that those pods more easily hook new smokers, particularly underage smokers.

In fact, in its approval of the Vuse products, the FDA said it only authorized them because it “determined that the potential benefit to smokers who switch completely or significantly reduce their cigarette use, would outweigh the risk to youth, provided the applicant follows post-marketing requirements aimed at reducing youth exposure and access to the products.”

While some have cheered the FDA’s decision, not everyone was enthusiastic. Many critics cited a joint FDA-CDC study in which nearly 11% of teens who said they vape also indicated regularly using Vuse products. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Wall Street Journal) (The Washington Post)

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Kaiser Permanente Health Workers Vote To Authorize Strike Over Pay, Staffing, and Safety

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The vote could inspire unioned Kaiser workers in other states to eventually approve strikes of their own. 


Workers Approve Strike

Over 24,000 unioned nurses and other healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals voted Monday to authorize strikes against the company in California and Oregon.

The tens of thousands of workers who cast a ballot make up 86% of the Kaiser-based healthcare professionals represented by either the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) or the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. An overwhelming 96% voted to approve the strike.

According to both unions, the list of workers includes nurses, pharmacists, midwives, and physical therapists.

The vote itself does not automatically initiate a strike; rather, it gives the unions the power to call a strike amid stalled contract negotiations between Kaiser and the unions. If the unions ultimately tell their members to begin striking, they will need to give a 10-day warning. 

The California and Oregon contracts expired Sep. 30, but several more Kaiser-based union contracts are rapidly approaching their expiration dates as well. That includes contracts for more than 50,000 workers in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, Washington state, and D.C. Notably, the demands from those workers echo many of the demands made by California and Oregon’s union members. 

The Demands 

At the center of this potential strike are three issues: staffing problems, safety concerns, and proposed revisions to Kaiser’s payment system. For months, nurses have been publicly complaining about long shifts spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages, and an over-reliance on contract nurses.

Because of that, they’re seeking to force Kaiser to commit to hiring more staff, as well as boost retention.

But the main catalyst for any looming strikes is pay. According to UNAC/UHCP, Kaiser wants to implement a two-tier payment system, which would decrease earnings by 26% to 39% for employees hired from 2023 onward. On top of that, those new employees would see fewer health protections.

The unions and their members worry such a system could lead to an increased feeling of resentment among workers since they would be paid different rates for performing the same job. They also worry it could exacerbate retention and hiring issues already faced by the hospital system. 

Additionally, the workers want to secure 4% raises for each of the next three years, but Kaiser’s currently only willing to give 1%, citing a need to reduce labor costs to remain competitive.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (The Washington Post) (KTLA)

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