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A federal judge blasted Google for its negligent policy that resulted in the deletion of employee chat records as closing arguments wrapped up Friday in a landmark antitrust case that could result in unprecedented changes to the tech giant’s core business.

Justice Department attorneys asked Judge Amit Mehta to sanction Google for failing to preserve evidence despite a court order and to rule that its conduct was intended to conceal anticompetitive behavior. Google has denied wrongdoing.

Mehta said it was negligent of Google to implement the policy, which automatically destroyed employee messages after 24 hours.

Googles document retention policy leaves a lot to be desired, Mehta said. Its shocking to me that a company would leave it to its employees to decide when to preserve documents.

Mehta did not indicate whether he would sanction Google over the policy. An attorney for the tech giant said the auto-erase policy was explicitly disclosed to plaintiffs years earlier, undercutting the feds claims that it showed intent to destroy evidence.

Google was already sanctioned over the same evidence destruction claims in a separate federal case filed by Fortnite maker Epic Games. Late last year, US District Judge James Donato said Googles willful and intentional suppression of relevant evidence in this case is deeply troubling.

This conduct is a frontal assault on the fair administration of justice. It undercuts due process. It calls into question just resolution of legal disputes. It is antithetical to our system, Donato said in December.

Earlier in the DOJs antitrust case, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified that the automatic chat deletion policy was already in place when he took the job in 2015 and said he had since taken action to end it.

Much of the second and final day of closing arguments was focused on Googles conduct toward advertisers in the online search market.

The DOJ said Googles market dominance allows it to jack up prices on advertisers and cited internal documents to argue that the company has at times tweaked search results in a way that hurt quality in order to boost its profits.

Only a monopolist can make a product worse and still make more money, DOJ attorney David Dahlquist said.

A day earlier, Google faced tough questions over claims by its lawyers that the company faces stiff competition for user eyeballs. The companys defense team pointed to other tech platforms such as Microsoft and Amazon as well as travel sites like Expedia, smaller search engines like DuckDuckGo and media outlets like ESPN as rivals for search traffic.

Mehta appeared skeptical of the argument that Google, which has a 90% share of the online search market, faced meaningful competition from those firms.

You really think that DuckDuckGo is a competitor on Google? the judge asked Googles lawyers at one point on Thursday.

The judge also scrutinized the DOJs arguments, warning that the feds faced a hard road to prove that Google had failed to innovate in online search over the last decade.

He cited Microsofts admission during the trial that it hadnt spent enough resources to build out its own mobile search business to challenge Google.

Mehta is expected to issue a decision on whether Google has maintained an illegal monopoly over online search later this year. When initial court testimony concluded last fall, Mehta admitted he had no idea how he would rule on the case.

If Mehta rules against Google, a separate trial will be held to determine what remedies should be implemented. The DOJ has not specified what remedies it is seeking.

Options could include mandated choice screens allowing users to pick their own default search engine or even a breakup of Googles business empire.

The Justice Department argued that Google has relied for years on billions of dollars in payments to partners such as Apple and AT&T including $26.3 billion in 2021 alone to ensure that its search engine is enabled by default on most smartphones. The feds say the deals stifle competition and hurt consumers by limiting choice and search quality.

Ahead of closing arguments, an unredacted document revealed that Google had made a whopping $20 billion to Apple in 2022 to be the default search engine on iPhones and other devices. The DOJ has pointed to the size of the deals as evidence of their importance to Google.

Google has denied operating a monopoly and asserted that it faces intense competition in the online search market. The company has described the default deals as fair competition and claims the public gravitates toward its search tool because of its quality.

Closing arguments came months after witness testimony that began in mid-September and lasted for 10 weeks. Key witnesses included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who testified that Googles default deals made the concept of user choice in online search completely bogus.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai also took the witness stand last October, as did Apple executive Eddy Cue and a cadre of economists, professors and business executives who gave detail on how the companys search empire functions.

With Post wires

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide – as ‘major destruction’ hampers rescue efforts

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide - as 'major destruction' hampers rescue efforts

More than 2,000 people have been buried by a massive landslide in northern Papua New Guinea, the country’s disaster agency has said.

The landslide levelled the mountainous Kaokalam village in Enga Province – about 370 miles (600km) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

It hit the Pacific nation at around 3am local time on Friday (6pm on Thursday UK time), and the United Nations had earlier said it estimated 670 people had been killed. Local officials had initially put the number of dead at 100 or more.

People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP
Image:
People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP

The Papua New Guinea national disaster centre said the landslide had buried more than 2,000 people.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” an official from the national disaster centre said in a letter to the United Nations.

Earlier, Serhan Aktoprak, head of the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration mission on the island nation, said the figure of 670 deaths was based on calculations by local officials that more than 150 homes had been buried. The previous estimate was 60 homes.

“They are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment,” he said.

More than 4,000 people were likely impacted by the disaster, humanitarian group CARE Australia said earlier.

It said the area was “a place of refuge for those displaced by [nearby] conflicts”.

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

About six villages were affected by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, according to Australia‘s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Three bodies were pulled from an area where 50 to 60 homes were destroyed. Six people, including a child, were pulled from the rubble alive, the UN’s Papua New Guinea office said.

But hopes of finding more survivors were diminishing.

Pic: AP
Villagers use heavy machinery to search through a landslide in Yambali in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sunday, May 26, 2024. The International Organization for Migration feared Sunday the death toll from a massive landslide is much worse than what authorities initially estimated. (Mohamud Omer/International Organization for Migration via AP)
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Villagers use heavy machinery to search through the landslide. Pic: AP

Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP
Image:
Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP

The landslide left debris up to eight metres deep across 200 sq km (77 sq miles), cutting off road access, which was making relief efforts difficult. Helicopters were the only way to reach the area.

Survivors searched through tonnes of earth and rubble by hand looking for missing relatives while a first emergency convoy delivered food, water and other provisions on Saturday.

However, Mr Aktoprak added: “Hopes to take the people out alive from the rubble have diminished now.”

In February, at least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

Mr Marape has said disaster officials, the defence force and the department of works and highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. Emmanuel Eralia via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
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A damaged house after the landslide. Pic: Reuters

People carry bags in the aftermath of a landslide in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. Andrew Ruing/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
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Locals carry their belongings away from the scene of the landslide. Pic: Reuters

Papua New Guinea, with a population of around 10 million, is a diverse, developing nation of mostly subsistence farmers with 800 languages. There are few roads outside the larger cities.

It is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s earthquake and volcanic activity occurs.

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In March, the country was hit by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

The US and Australia are building closer defence ties with the strategically important nation, while China is also seeking closer security and economic ties.

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said their governments stood ready to help respond to the landslide.

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

Eight people have been taken to hospital due to turbulence on a flight to Dublin.

Dublin Airport said six passengers and six crew members on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin were hurt after experiencing turbulence over Turkey.

In a later statement, the airport said all passengers were assessed for injury before getting off the plane and eight were taken to hospital.

Graeme McQueen, a spokesman for DAA, the operator of Dublin Airport, told Sky News the aircraft was met by emergency services upon landing shortly before 1pm on Sunday.

The scene at Dublin Airport

Qatar Airways described the injuries sustained by passengers and crew as “minor”.

It said: “[They] are now receiving medical attention… The safety and security of our passengers and crew are our top priority.”

An internal investigation into what happened has now been launched.

Read more:
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Climate change causing more turbulence – scientists

Earlier this week, in a separate incident, a British man died on a Singapore Airlines flight after extreme turbulence on a Heathrow-Singapore journey.

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Singapore Airlines passenger Josh Silverstone describes ordeal

Turbulence is defined as a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

It can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing planes to fly around them, Sky News weather producer Jo Robinson said.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous as there are no visual signs, such as clouds.

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This invisible vertical air movement usually occurs at and above 15,000ft and is mostly linked to the jet stream.

It is unclear what type of turbulence the Qatar Airways flight went through.

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

Four girls aged between nine and 17 were stabbed in an “unprovoked” attack at a cinema in Massachusetts, US police have said.

A 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were also found stabbed in a McDonald’s restaurant in an incident that may be connected, according to officers.

A man, whose identity has not been released, was taken into custody following a vehicle chase that ended in a crash in Sandwich, Cape Cod.

Police said a man came into the AMC Braintree 10 complex, south of Boston, at about 6pm local time on Saturday and entered one of the movie theatres without paying.

“Without saying anything and without any warning, he suddenly attacked the four young females,” the Braintree police department said in a statement.

“The attack appeared to be unprovoked. After the attack, the man ran out and left in a vehicle.”

The girls sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospitals in Boston for treatment.

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The suspect’s vehicle – what appeared to be a black SUV – and number plate was seen on camera, police said.

A vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle was later seen in Plymouth, about 27 miles south of Braintree.

Police said it had left a McDonald’s restaurant, where a 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were found stabbed and both were taken to hospitals with injuries.

Police found the vehicle another 20 miles south, in Sandwich, and attempted to pull it over, but it didn’t stop and later crashed.

The driver was taken into custody shortly afterward and was being treated at a hospital.

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