Google fined $7 billion for forcing software on phone makers

European regulators came down hard on another US tech giant overnight fining Google a record US$5 billion (NZ$7.3 billion) for forcing cellphone makers that use the company's Android operating system to install Google search and browser apps.

The European Union said Google's practices restrict competition and reduce choices for consumers.

While Google can easily afford the fine, the ruling could hurt the company's business model, which relies on giving away its operating system in return for opportunities to sell ads and other products.

Google immediately said it will appeal, arguing that its free operating system has led to lower-price phones and created competition with its chief rival, Apple.

Android has "created more choice for everyone, not less," Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted.

The fine, which caps a three-year investigation, is the biggest ever imposed on a company by the EU for anticompetitive behavior.

It is likely to stoke tensions between Europe and the US, which regulates the tech industry with a lighter hand and has complained that the EU is singling out American companies for punishment.

Still, some US politicians welcomed the ruling.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut tweeted that the fine should "be a wake-up call" to the Federal Trade Commission and "should lead US enforcers to protect consumers." Blumenthal previously called on regulators to investigate how Google tracks users of Android phones.

In its ruling, the EU said Google broke the rules by requiring cellphone makers to take a bundle of Google apps if they wanted any at all.

The bundle contains 11 apps, including YouTube, Maps and Gmail, but regulators focused on three that had the largest market share: Google's Search and Chrome apps, and its Play Store app marketplace.

The EU gave Google 90 days to come up with remedies that could allow rival search apps and browsers onto more phones. Failure to comply risks a further penalty of up to US$15 million a day.

The EU also took issue with Google's payments to wireless carriers and phone makers to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app.

It ruled, too, that Google broke the law by forcing manufacturers that took its apps to commit to not selling devices that use altered versions of Android.

Google logo Source: Associated Press

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Five climbers, four guides go missing in Nepal during storm

Five South Korean climbers and four Nepalese guides were missing on Gurja Himal mountain after a strong storm swept through their base camp, officials and expedition organizers said.

A storm today destroyed their camp and rescue helicopter sent today were unable to land because of bad weather conditions on the mountain, police official Bir Bahadur Budamagar said.

It was unlikely the weather would clear today and the base camp is at least one-day trek from the nearest village.

A police team was also heading toward the base camp on foot and would likely reach there overnight.

The climbers were attempting to scale the 7,193-metre peak during the Autumn climbing season.

Climbing
Climbing Source: istock.com


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Melania Trump opens up on marriage to the US President in exclusive TV interview

Melania Trump has spoken about her marriage to US President Donald Trump and rumours of his affairs.

The first lady gave a rare TV interview during a recent trip to Africa, with no questions off-limits.

Through it all, she's held her tongue. Ms Trump was silent when porn star Stormy Daniels stepped forward. She said nothing when the White House denied the affair, and she remained tight-lipped when the president later admitted to paying hush money to keep Ms Daniels silent.

Now, a much-hyped tell-all interview with the first lady has addressed allegations of her husband's infidelity.

"It is not concern and focus of mine. I'm a mother and first lady and I have much more important things to think about and to do," Ms Trump said.

"I know people like to speculate and media like to speculate about our marriage and circulate the gossip but I understand the gossip sells newspapers, magazines, and unfortunately, we live in this kind of world today."

She said it's "not always pleasant, of course, but I know what is right and what is wrong and what is true and not true".

Ms Trump insists she is not focused on the scandal, but it is clear she cannot ignore it.

She said she was not happy when her husband's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appeared to put words in her mouth.

"She believes in her husband - she knows it's not true. I don't think there's even a slight suspicion that it's true," Mr Guiliani had said at the time.

Ms Trump said, "I never talk to Mr Giuliani".

"Why do you think he came out and said that? I don't know. You need to ask him."

A former model, the first lady moved to New York in 1996 shortly before meeting Donald Trump.

"He came with a date and he was known as kind of a lady's man."

During the interview, Ms Trump said she knew for 20 years that he had dreamed of being president, and she had pictured herself being a "very traditional" first lady by his side, saying, "I will support him. I will stand by my man".

While the first lady has continued to stand by her husband, their relationship has been widely scrutinized.

The first lady is adamant she still has a good marriage, despite many images appearing to show the contrary.

"Yes we are fine. Yes," she said of their relationship.

"It's what media speculate and it's gossip. It's not always correct stuff."

The first lady gave a rare TV interview while touring Africa. Source: 1 NEWS

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'Go out and give blood' - Jacinda Ardern urges Kiwis to sign up to bone marrow donor registry after young mum's leukaemia returns

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has taken to social media to urge New Zealanders to give blood and to be put on the bone marrow registry after a woman discovered her leukaemia had returned after giving birth.

Ms Ardern posted a photo of the woman and her young family on Instagram, captioning it, "This is Jo. You might have read about her in the paper this morning. Jo had a baby around the same time as I did, but after her baby arrived she found out that her leukaemia was back".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is urging Kiwis to give blood and to be added to the bone marrow donor registry. Source: Instagram / Jacinda Ardern

"I know Jo, and I also know that it's going to take finding a donor to help her get well. And this is the bit where we can make a difference to her, but potentially to lots of other people too.

The Prime Minister implored her followers to "go out "go out and give blood, and when you do, ask to be added to the bone marrow donor registry".

"Because of a whole range of complexities, I'm told that if you're a man with ancestry other than European, you're most likely to be added to the list because that's where the greatest need is. So please, spread the word. You could help save a life."

Jo and her young family. Source: Instagram / Jacinda Ardern


Aerial footage shows devastation after Hurricane Michael tears through 'cozy' Florida beach town

Tom Garcia surveyed the damage to an apartment block on the coast road in Mexico Beach, Florida, pacing along in his walker through the debris today.

He said he hadn't heard from his daughter and 90-year-old mother since Thursday, when Hurricane Michael tore the small Gulf Coast community in the Florida Panhandle.

Search and rescue teams combed through dozens of destroyed buildings, some knocked by the massive sea swells clean off their foundations, others gone altogether. Source: Associated Press

Search and rescue teams from south Florida combed through dozens of destroyed buildings, some knocked by the massive sea swells clean off their foundations, some obliterated altogether.

Mexico Beach described by its mayor, Al Cathey is a quiet "cozy, family oriented town," which he added " hardly exists" anymore.

No one in the town has cell phone service, phone service or internet.

Local 86-year-old man Bill Shockey stayed at his house when the storm hit and the hurricane swells crashed water 1500 feet inland, flooding his enitre house.

Hector Morales, a cook at a local restaurant, pointed to a boat tethered to a palm tree in front of a neighbour's house, by his old mobile home.

Morales squeezed out the door in flood water and swam with a dog to the boat and held on for dear life.

He says he's lost everything and he's now starting from zero.

Search-and-rescue teams found at least one body in Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town nearly obliterated by Hurricane Michael, an official said today as the scale of the storm's fury became ever clearer.

The death toll across the South stood at 13, not counting any victims in Mexico Beach.

Search and rescue teams combed through dozens of destroyed buildings in Mexico Beach. Source: Associated Press