Reason Roundup

A New Front in Trump's War on Amazon

Plus: Thousands of troops leaving Afghanistan, TV networks sue streaming site Locust, Gabbard calls Harris response "pathetic," and more...

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A $10 billion tech contract with the U.S. military is under review, in what many perceive as a political move by President Donald Trump against Amazon.

In mid-July, Trump said his administration was looking into the Pentagon's likely decision to award the contract to Amazon Web Services, amid "complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM."

"Amazon Web Services, which virtually created the cloud computing industry and has long provided cloud services to the Central Intelligence Agency, has always been seen as the strongest competitor," reports The New York Times. But Trump—a frequent Amazon critic—told reporters in July that "great companies are complaining about it, so we're going to take a look at it. We'll take a very strong look at it."

This week, a spokesperson for Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper announced that the contract would be postponed while Esper was "looking at" it further. No word was given on how long that will take or whether the White House had in fact intervened.

Google had initially been in the running for the contract, but it "pulled out amid employee opposition to military work, though many analysts said it was unlikely to win the project because it lacked the right security credentials," says the Times.

IBM and Oracle had also been vying for the contract, but the Department of Defense said in April that they were no longer being considered and the contract was between Amazon and Microsoft.


ELECTION 2020

Gabbard calls Harris response "pathetic." More fallout from Tulsi Gabbard challenging Kamala Harris during Wednesday night's debate:


FREE MINDS

Lobbying is speech:


FREE MARKETS

Big-four broadcast networks fight the TV distribution nonprofit Locust. ABC, CBS, Comcast NBCUniversal, and Fox are suing a video-streaming company called Locust:

New York based Locast offers viewers access to over the air broadcasts via the internet to roughly 13 cities (about 31% of the US market). Its website notes the operation is funded by donations and that access to this content (again, already accessible for free via an antenna) should be a consumer "right" given that US consumers technically own the airwaves these programs are broadcast over.

The networks disagree.

Locust is "funded in part by AT&T and Dish Networks" and "was developed by former FCC lawyer and media executive David Goodfriend, who…designed the service entirely from the ground up in a bid to try and comply with (and test the logic of) the current legal minefield," notes TechDirt. Goodfriend told The New York Times: "We really did our homework. We are operating under parameters that are designed to be compliant within the law."


QUICK HITS

  • Thousands of troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan today. "The agreement, which would require the Taliban to begin negotiating a larger peace deal directly with the Afghan government, could cut the number of American troops in the country from roughly 14,000 to between 8,000 and 9,000," reports The Washington Post.
  • The U.S. is pulling out of a missile treaty with Russia. "France and Germany and other allies have backed the U.S. plan to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on Friday unless Russia destroys missiles that the U.S. says violate the pact," reports The Wall Street Journal. "Moscow has shown no sign of complying with the deadline."
  • New Jersey just joined eight states and D.C. in legalizing physician-assisted suicide.
  • Trump announced yesterday that another $300 billion in Chinese goods would face 10 percent tariffs come September. "Combined with the existing tariffs of 25 percent on about $250 billion worth of Chinese-made goods, the new tariffs will effectively cover all goods imported from China," notes Reason's Eric Boehm.
  • Jail nurse charged in inmate's death:

  • Playboy is being relaunched as a quarterly magazine. CEO Ben Kohn said Playboy merchandise and services still net $3 billion annually, and so reviving the magazine worked well as a form of "brand extension." The New York Times says Kohn "likened the future of the company to Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop."
  • The FBI thinks conspiracy theories could be a terror threat, and it has issued a bulletin warning about them. Yahoo News, which obtained the document, quotes some skeptical thoughts from Joe Uscinski, Michael German, and David Garrow.
  • Women in Saudi Arabia can now get their own passports.