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In Australia, Facebook is making a power shift – and can regret it



In Australia, Facebook is making a power shift - and can regret it


For years, in the midst of a slew of privacy controversies, antitrust litigation and allegations that it allowed hate speech and populism to undermine democracy, Facebook has been in a defensive crouch. However, it suddenly pivoted early Thursday to take the offensive in Australia, where it lowered the boom on publishers and the government with a sudden decision to block news across the entire nation on its website.

The power play could easily backfire, considering how worried many governments have become about the company’s unregulated control over culture, democracy and political debate, a response to an Australian law that would require Facebook to pay publishers to use their news stories. But it’s still a surprising reminder of just how much influence Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, can exert at the touch of a figurative button.

“Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and professor at Syracuse University, said, “Zuckerberg’s flex here reveals how he can disrupt global access to news in a heartbeat. “No company should have that much influence over journalistic access.”

The step by Facebook suggests that people in Australia can no longer post links on Facebook to news reports. In the meantime, outside Australia, no one will post links to Aussie news sources like the Sydney Morning Herald.

Facebook said its partnership with publishers who use its service to propel their stories around the globe “ignores the realities” of the proposed legislation. Significant questions have also been raised by technology and media experts. In January, Timothy Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist known as the World Wide Web founder, told an Australian Senate committee that the precedent of the legislation could potentially kill the internet by demanding payment for links that have always been free.

The bill hasn’t come into force. Negotiations between the tech firms, the government of Australia and the media giants of the country, most notably Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., may lead to changes in the final edition.

What can’t be altered, however, is the dramatic, if ham-handed, attempt by Facebook to force the question. The firm gave no warning about its decision to block Australian news and so clumsily enforced the ban that it blocked many innocent bystanders.

“As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, in order to comply with the law as drafted, we have adopted a broad definition,” said Facebook spokeswoman Mari Melguizo, who added that the company will unblock any pages blocked by mistake.

Even if there are problems with the rule, including the fact that it stands to help media giants like News Corp., Facebook’s reaction was not justified, said Elizabeth Renieris, director of the Notre Dame-IBM Technology Ethics Lab. The show of strength by Facebook, she said, is “really going to wake up regulators all over the world.”

Facebook is not consistent with democracy if it is not already obvious,” Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who heads a House subcommittee that has called for antitrust action against the company, wrote on Twitter.” “The ultimate admission of monopoly power is to threaten to bring an entire country to its knees to agree to Facebook’s terms.”

Democrats announced on Thursday that they would hold fresh hearings to restrict online platforms and amend antitrust legislation.

For vital information, not just news, but charity and government pages, emergency announcements and other critical outlets, billions of people around the world depend on Facebook. Many of these, including humanitarian organisations such as Foodbank Australia and Doctors without Borders in Australia, which found their pages temporarily disabled, were swept up by Facebook’s news blackout.

Articles from major foreign news organisations and small community newspapers or radio stations were similarly impacted by the ban. These restrictions have potentially deprived many Australians of basic COVID-19 or the country’s fire season details on Facebook from a business that is dedicated to creating “connection and community.”

A blunt effect felt by Australian publishers. The Facebook ban resulted in a 24 percent decrease in total traffic to Australian publishers by late Friday morning local time, compared to 48 hours earlier, analytics firm Chartbeat said.

The tech company has faced years of scrutiny for allowing disinformation to fester on its platform about politics and the coronavirus. Critics say they fear that it would only exacerbate that issue by robbing Australian users of legitimate news outlets.

Tama Leaver, an internet studies and social media specialist at Curtin University in Australia, said during an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio Perth on Wednesday, ‘Playing this game in Australia would fill people’s feeds with misinformation.’

But for many users, a news-free Facebook could also be a more enjoyable experience, said Drew Margolin, a communication professor at Cornell University. If it had offered Australians an option to opt out of the news, Facebook would have been better off, he proposed. If many did, with the government and publishers, the firm might have used it for leverage.

What happens when they say that we’re about to turn it back on and say that we’re not ready, please? “Said he.


In anticipation of 1,000, here’s a look at the most memorable home runs at Target Field



In anticipation of 1,000, here’s a look at the most memorable home runs at Target Field

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s been walk-offs and inside-the-parkers. There have been balls that have just barely cleared the wall, and ones that have traveled nearly 500 feet.

Since Target Field opened, the Twins have hit 999 home runs at the park, starting with Jason Kubel on Opening Day 2010. No one has hit more there than Brian Dozier (81), though Miguel Sanó is not far behind and could eclipse that record.

When the Twins return home to take on the Detroit Tigers this week, they’re likely to hit the 1,000 milestone. Before they do, here’s a look back at 10 of the most memorable longballs since the stadium opened.

April 12, 2010: Jason Kubel

Former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel holds an important distinction: His Opening Day home run, which he deposited into the seats in right field, was the first in Target Field’s history.

The Twins, of course, wanted to procure the baseball, and the fan who caught it had a very specific request.

“The fan wanted a Joe Mauer autographed bat, which I always thought was odd,” longtime television announcer Dick Bremer said. “I thought if Kubel hit it, the exchange should be an autographed bat of Jason Kubel, not Joe Mauer, but I understand. I understand the fan’s standpoint absolutely.”

Aug. 17, 2010: Jim Thome

It took until mid-August for the Twins to collect their first walk-off hit at Target Field, and it was a home run from who else but future Hall of Famer Jim Thome.

Against his former team, the White Sox, and his former teammate, Matt Thornton, Thome clobbered the second pitch he saw, sending the Twins to a 7-6 win. For Bremer, that was “without question,” the most memorable home run in the ballpark’s history to him.

“It turned a loss into a win for the Twins and did just the opposite for the White Sox,” Bremer said. “I think it turned out to be a pivot point in the whole season for both teams.”

Sept. 6, 2010: Jim Thome

Another entry from Thome came later that year when the lefty absolutely demolished a pitch for a majestic home run that he took out to right field. The ball wound up hitting off the top of the flagpole that holds the American flag on the right field concourse.

“Oh my goodness gracious,” Bremer said on the call.

Estimates had the ball traveling 480 feet, which would have been the longest home run at the ballpark at the time. It has since been eclipsed.

May 6, 2015: Eddie Rosario

Reliever Tyler Duffey, one of the longest tenured Twins, has seen his fair share of Target Field home runs.

But one of the ones at the forefront of Duffey’s mind is Eddie Rosario’s first, in which the outfielder took the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer out to left field, an opposite-field blast that eventually earned him the silent treatment from his teammates in the dugout.

“That was probably the coolest that I can think of just because like, first day, first at-bat, first pitch of his career, hits a home run,” Duffey said. “It was just so stereotypically Rosie, like just right on brand for him.”

July 10, 2015: Brian Dozier

After missing out on an all-star nomination, Dozier showed why he belonged.

The Twins entered the ninth inning trailing the Tigers 6-1. They charged all the way back, with Dozier’s three-run blast off Joakim Soria capping an improbable victory. To this day, that home run stands out as radio announcer Cory Provus’s favorite.

“The team wasn’t very good and you’re looking for bright spots,” Provus said. “Brian Dozier became one of the most feared right-handed batters in baseball that season, and I just remember that home run being significant because it was also the beginning of the end of the Tigers’ run.”

June 12, 2016: Max Kepler

How’s this for a first career home run?

Tied 4-4 with a pair of runners in scoring position and just one out, Max Kepler remembers the Red Sox bringing an extra infielder in. His plan, he said, was to just hit a sacrifice fly. He did one better, instead taking an 0-2 pitch from Matt Barnes and depositing it into center field for a walk-off.

“That was a really cool one because that was like a really big moment to homer and it kind (of was) like Kepler’s like coming out, ‘Like, alright, I’m here,’” Duffey said. “I think it was like a theater like 98. … He just whacked it.”

May 5, 2017: Joe Mauer

Barnes was also on the mound during another memorable Twins’ moment: Mauer’s first — and only — walk-off home run.

With the Twins and Red Sox tied 3-3 in the ninth, Mauer took a pitch out to the bullpen in center field, tipping his helmet to the crowd before he met a group of his exuberant teammates at the plate.

“I saved it for the right moment, right?” Mauer said shortly after hitting the blast.

Aug. 5, 2019: Miguel Sanó

Braves center fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. didn’t even bother racing back to track the baseball. He knew, as did everyone in the park, that Sanó had gotten all of it.

The two-run blast broke open a 3-3 game in the ninth inning and ignited a celebration that still sticks with many to this day.

“It was mammoth of a homer against a good team that year, which was (a) very much-needed win, and yeah just how we celebrated it and how he came in as like a gorilla, like patting the ground, that was something that’s (been) imprinted in my mind for a while,” Kepler said.

Sept. 17, 2019: Miguel Sanó

Not only did Sanó’s blast off White Sox reliever Ross Detwiler travel 496-feet, a Target Field record that stands to this day, it was also his 30th of the season.

With that, the Twins became the first team in history to have five players reach that milestone in a season. Sanó joined Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in doing so.

When he connected, Sanó dropped his bat after his follow through and Detwiler turned around, watched it travel and then put his hands on his thighs and hung his head down.

“He’s physically capable of doing things that really very few people in baseball are capable of doing,” manager Rocco Baldelli said that day.

Sept. 22, 2019: Nelson Cruz

The first home run of Nelson Cruz’s decorated career came in July 2006 in Minnesota against the Twins. The 400th came in Minnesota for the Twins.

Cruz had been sitting on No. 399, awaiting the milestone for a couple days by the time he connected with a Gabe Speier pitch and sent it into the second deck in right-center field. In addition to it being the 400th of his career, it was his 40th that season, marking the fourth time he had reached that number.

“Very special,” Cruz said that day. “It’s definitely a good one. It’s nice to do it in front of the fans. I think they deserve it.”

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MN Legislature running out of time — or is it?



MN Legislature running out of time — or is it?

Facing a looming midnight deadline, the Minnesota Legislature sputtered on Sunday, leaving unclear whether a major series of tax breaks and long-sought spending plans — or anything of widespread significance — would get done.

Senior lawmakers’ opinions were all over the map Sunday afternoon, when asked to predict what was the most likely — or best — course of action. Finger-pointing and frustration broke out in some quarters, while guarded optimism persevered in others, and a spectrum of election-year political calculations hung in the air of the state Capitol in St. Paul.

Minnesota is one of two legislatures in the nation with control split among Republicans and Democrats, and lawmakers’ primary task was how to address a record budget surplus of more than $9 billion.

On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, announced a grand bargain for how it all should work, but hammering out many of the details has proven problematic.

Perhaps the biggest question: Would a bipartisan $4 billion package of major tax breaks agreed to Saturday actually get done, or would it become legislative roadkill splattered by disagreements over unrelated spending plans?

Another question: Would a separate aspect of the grand bargain — $1.5 billion in public works projects — ultimately be approved, or would it fall by the wayside as well?

By afternoon Sunday, a few things had become relatively clear:

  • Not everything generally agreed to by the state’s top leaders last week in the grand bargain could get done. There simply wasn’t enough time for several large bills — hundred of pages of legal language — to be processed by the constitutional deadline at midnight.
  • Among the most likely casualty: a health and human services spending plan that had held the prospect of a range of initiatives, from increasing pay for caregivers and funding other programs to help keep nursing homes and long-term care centers afloat to approving millions of dollars for Ramsey County to stave off a feared burst in homelessness.
  • Vast swaths of the $4 billion in spending envisioned in the grand bargain had been agreed to. However, tens or hundreds of millions in sticking points threatened to upend it all.
  • Nothing has to happen. The state is operating under a two-year, $52 billion budget approved last year, so there’s no risk of parts of the government shutting down if no additional legislation passes this year.
  • There appeared to be a growing sense that the limited appetite for a special session — a legislative overtime of sorts — was fading. Only Walz, a Democrat, can call a special session. He has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to. Even if he changed his mind, he would most likely require buy-in from leaders of the House and Senate before doing so, and Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate didn’t appear enthusiastic about the idea. It wasn’t clear where the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-controlled House stood.

Among the issues that remained in dispute:

  • Lawmakers struggled to agree on how to spend some $450 million in public safety, which could include recruiting hiring police officers, as well as funding community-based crime prevention strategies.
  • Negotiators appeared at loggerheads over how to spend $1 billion on schools, as demands for special education and mental health needs dominated discussions.
  • A years-long disagreement on transportation funding emerged as a potentially intractable sticking point: whether all proceeds from sales taxes on auto parts should go into the state’s dedicated trust fund for state highways. Currently, half of those funds do, while the other half goes into the state’s general fund.

Here’s a summary of many of the issues lawmakers were grappling with Saturday.

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Joey Gallo, Kyle Higashioka test positive for COVID-19



Joey Gallo, Kyle Higashioka test positive for COVID-19

Before their Sunday doubleheader against the White Sox, the Yankees announced that Joey Gallo and Kyle Higashioka tested positive for COVID-19. Both players were placed on the COVID-19 injured list.

Both players are vaccinated, as they were able to travel to and play in the team’s series in Toronto.

Aaron Boone said in his pregame press conference on Sunday that Gallo had been feeling under the weather and was going to get the first day of the doubleheader off, with Boone saying that he’d probably get the start in the second game.

That is now out of the question.

Right-handed reliever David McKay was called up from Triple-A to take a spot on the active roster.

The Yankees also signed catcher Rob Brantly to a Major League contract and selected him to the 26-man roster.

Continuing the flurry of roster moves, catcher Ben Rortvedt was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Rortvedt, who has only played in two minor league games this season, recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He is expected to return to game action in six to eight weeks.


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