Hillicon Valley: Uber lays off 3,000 | FBI unlocks Pensacola shooter's phones | Lawmakers introduce bill restricting purchase of airline equipment from Chinese companies

Hillicon Valley: Uber lays off 3,000 | FBI unlocks Pensacola shooter's phones | Lawmakers introduce bill restricting purchase of airline equipment from Chinese companies
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Wednesday, May 20: The Vir[tech]ual World Ahead

On Wednesday, May 20 The Hill Virtually Live will explore the lessons we are learning in our new digital reality. Accommodating the new normal means an increased reliance on telecommunication networks and an accelerated digitalization of industries. Yet, digital literacy is uneven, as is basic access to the internet. How should policymakers approach the goals of coverage, access, affordability and capacity? Editor-at-large Steve Clemons will be joined by Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneDemocrats signal House bill to go further than Biden proposal on child tax credit Democratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research MORE (D-Wash.), FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly and more. RSVP today


On Thursday, May 21, The Hill hosts Advancing the American Economy, a national virtual summit to discuss a responsible reopening of the U.S. economy. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE joins Editor-in-Chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Key Democrat says traveler fees should fund infrastructure projects Trump legal switch hints at larger problems MORE for a headline interview followed by an afternoon of discussions with leading CEOs and national health experts. Additional speakers to be announced. Register Now!     



BAD DAY FOR UBER EMPLOYEES: Uber is laying off another 3,000 employees as the coronavirus pandemic cuts into demand for its services, the company announced on Monday.


Combined with the previously announced layoffs of 3,700 workers in customer support and recruiting roles, the ride-sharing giant has now lost roughly 25 percent of its staff since the beginning of the month.

Latest cut: Uber is also closing around 40 of its offices worldwide, winding down its AI Labs and merging its delivery services, including Uber Eats.

“Given the dramatic impact of the pandemic, and the unpredictable nature of any eventual recovery, we are concentrating our efforts on our core mobility and delivery platforms and resizing our company to match the realities of our business," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

"That’s led us to some painful decisions today: we are stopping some of our non-core investments and reducing the size of our workforce by around 3,000 people, each of whom I want to personally thank for their contributions to Uber. As I said to our teams today, we are making these hard choices now so that we can move forward and begin to build again with confidence," he said.

Read more about the cuts here.


FBI UNLOCKS GUNMAN’S PHONES: Attorney General William BarrBill BarrCNN legal analyst joins DOJ's national security division Barr threatened to resign over Trump attempts to fire Wray: report DOJ faces big decision on home confinement MORE said Monday that the Justice Department has uncovered evidence demonstrating that the Saudi military officer behind last year’s Pensacola Naval Air Station shooting had “significant ties” to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Barr, who disclosed the details at a virtual press conference in Washington, said the evidence was uncovered after the FBI unlocked two iPhones belonging to Mohammed Alshamrani, the gunman who opened fire at the naval station last December.

“Thanks to the relentless efforts and ingenuity of FBI technicians, the FBI finally succeeded in unlocking Alshamrani’s phones,” he said. “The phones contained information previously unknown to us that definitively establishes Alshamrani’s significant ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, not only before the attack but before he even arrived in the United States.”

“We now have a clearer understanding of Alshamrani’s associations and activities in the years, months and days leading up to the attack,” Barr continued.

Officials were cautious about detailing the new information obtained from the phones, saying the investigation is ongoing. FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters that the evidence showed Alshamrani was “more than just inspired” by AQAP.

Read more about the case here.


PUSHING BACK AGAINST CHINA: Lawmakers on Monday introduced bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the use of federal funds to purchase airport equipment made in countries that may pose a national security threat to the United States, such as China.


The Airport Infrastructure Resources Security Act would apply to purchases of passenger boarding bridges and other infrastructure from countries deemed by federal officials to pose a national security threat, and those involved in stealing U.S. intellectual property (IP).

U.S.-China tensions: Rep. Ron WrightRon WrightCarter sworn in as House member to replace Richmond, padding Democrats' majority Unsuccessful anti-Trump Republican candidate: GOP 'not living up to this moment' Democrats confront difficult prospects for midterms MORE (R-Texas), who introduced the bill alongside Rep. Marc VeaseyMarc Allison VeaseyHouse fails to pass drug bill amid Jan. 6 tensions New signs of progress emerge on police reform OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Native groups hope Haaland's historic confirmation comes with tribal wins | EPA asks court to nix Trump rule limiting GHG regs | Green group asks regulators to block use of utility customers' money for lobbying  MORE (D-Texas), pointed to China as a major threat, particularly amid increased tensions over the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Make no mistake, the CCP will stop at nothing to gain power and control,” Wright said in a statement. “We cannot afford to give them inroads to our most critical systems."

Veasey said in a separate statement that he hoped the legislation would lead to an influx of jobs through the exclusion of foreign companies from countries involved in IP theft.

“As we emerge from the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic, one way to help rebuild the economy and get Americans back to work is by rebuilding our infrastructure,” Veasey said. “However, it is important that as we make these investments we are not rewarding foreign state-owned enterprises who have a history of IP violations.”

Other House sponsors of the bill include GOP Reps. Michael WaltzMichael WaltzOvernight Defense: Ex-Pentagon chief defends Capitol attack response as GOP downplays violence | Austin, Biden confer with Israeli counterparts amid conflict with Hamas | Lawmakers press Pentagon officials on visas for Afghan partners Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief to press for Manchin's support on Colin Kahl | House Dems seek to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police 140 lawmakers call for Biden administration to take 'comprehensive' approach to Iran MORE (Fla.), Ross SpanoVincent (Ross) Ross SpanoGOP keeps control of Florida House seat held by Rep. Ross Spano 10 bellwether House races to watch on election night The Hill's Morning Report - Jill Biden urges country to embrace her husband MORE (Fla.), Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartBottom line GOP lawmakers ask Biden administration for guidance on reopening cruise industry The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Biden delivers 100 million shots in 58 days, doses to neighbors MORE (Fla.) and Lance GoodenLance GoodenLoyalty trumps policy in Stefanik's rise, Cheney's fall GOP frustration with Liz Cheney 'at a boiling point' Blackburn introduces bill to require migrant DNA testing at border MORE (Texas).

The supporters pointed to specific concerns over Chinese-owned company CIMC-Tianda, which manufactures passenger boarding bridges.


Read more about the bill here.


NOTHING TO SEE HERE: The celebrity law firm targeted by a hacking group with a $42 million ransom demand said Sunday that it had no previous relationship with President TrumpDonald TrumpWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal MORE after the hackers threatened to release damaging information on him and others.

A spokesperson for Grubman, Shire, Meiselas & Sacks, P.C. told CNN that the firm had never listed Trump among its high-profile clients, which include names behind top brands such as Vera Wang and Tommy Hilfiger.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill on whether Trump had any relationship with the firm.

Hackers from a group identified by experts as "REvil" or "Sodinokibi" targeted the firm with a ransomware attack, locking up its network and demanding $42 million in ransom in a post to a dark web forum first reported by Variety on Friday.

The group later claimed that it would release politically damaging information on Trump should the firm refuse to pay the ransom, while also stating that it had received $365,000 from the firm so far.


“The next person we'll be publishing is Donald Trump. There's an election race going on, and we found a ton of dirty laundry,” the group's post reportedly read. “And to you voters, we can let you know that after such a publication, you certainly don't want to see him as president.”

Read more here.


BANNED DRONES: A judge in France has halted the government's use of drones to enforce stay-at-home orders, citing privacy concerns.

Bloomberg News reported Monday that the Conseil d'État, one of the highest courts in the country, ruled that police authorities may only use drone surveillance to enforce social distancing and other coronavirus restrictions once concerns about the data collected by the drones are addressed.

The ruling comes after privacy groups including La Quadrature du Net filed a lawsuit arguing that the drones used by Paris police collected information on individuals without their knowledge and stored it without their consent and without any limits.

“If the police intended to take advantage of the health crisis to test new gadgets, they got things wrong,” the groups said at the time, according to Bloomberg.

To address those concerns, the Conseil d'État ruled that lawmakers must pass a provision limiting the types of data that can be collected and how long it remains stored, or equip drones with technology that shields individuals' identities from drone operators.

Read more about the decision here.


WE HAVE A PLAN: Apple on Sunday announced its plan to safely reopen stores shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Twenty-five locations will reopen in the next week in California, Washington, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii and Oklahoma, while another 10 will reopen their doors in Italy and 12 will reopen in Canada, USA Today reported, adding that the tech giant will follow local health guidance for each location.

Apple said all customers will have to wear face masks before entering the stores, and masks will be provided to any customers who do not have their own. Customers will also be required to agree to temperature checks before entering. 

Some stores will offer only curbside or storefront pickup while customers will be asked to wait in line at other stores if they are over capacity. The locations in California and Washington will offer curbside service exclusively, the company noted.

“The response to COVID‑19 is still ongoing, and we recognize that the road back will have its twists and turns. But whatever challenges lie ahead, COVID‑19 has only reinforced our faith in people — in our teams, in our customers, in our communities,” Apple head of retail Dierdre O’Brien said in a statement.

Read more about Apple’s plan here.


Lighter click: Just drop it in the bucket

An op-ed to chew on: How supercomputers are getting us closer to a COVID-19 vaccine 


Glitches in online A.P. tests add to students’ anxieties (New York Times / Jenny Gross) 

‘Hardware is hard’: Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth on VR’s iPhone moment and Facebook’s big bets (Protocol / Janko Roettgers)

SoftBank loses Jack Ma from its board and posts worst loss ever (CNN / Sherisse Pham)

Disney’s head of streaming is new TikTok CEO (New York Times / Brooks Barnes)