Lawsuit Alleges Man Died in a Burning Tesla Because its Futuristic Doors Wouldn’t Open

Elon Musk founded Tesla Motors in 2003 and oversees all product development, engineering, and design of the world-renowned company. In August of 2008, Tesla announced its first electric sedan called the Model S. Elon Musk is known for having a brilliant mind and was quoted saying, “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” Recently, a failure related to Tesla has come tragically according to Omar Awan’s attorney, Stuart Grossman. Grossman filed suit against Tesla claiming the company was at fault for his client’s death in a car crash due to the Model S’s futuristic design features.

Omar Awan was a 48-year-old anesthesiologist and a father to five children. Like many Americans, he leased the Tesla Model S because he was environmentally sensitive and conscious of safety. According to a Tesla spokeswoman who responded after the crash, “Tesla vehicles are engineered to be the safest cars in the world and Tesla drivers have driven more than 10 billion miles to date.” Awan was driving the Model S and lost control. The car went across a South Florida road and ultimately slammed into a palm tree. The struggle for his life began shortly afterwards. Once the car was stopped, the Tesla lithium-ion battery caught fire while smoke and flames filled the car. There was a crowd standing nearby to witness the tragedy take place but there was nothing anyone could do to help. According to the Washington Post, “the car’s retractable door handles, which are supposed to auto-present when they detect a key fob nearby, malfunctioned and first responders weren’t able to open the doors and save Awan.” Grossman alleges there was no other way to open the doors because of the Model S’s inaccessible door handles.

Awan’s death is not the only Tesla-related failure in the news recently. Another lawsuit from a May 2018 crash that killed two teens was a result of the lithium battery catching on fire. Also, a Shanghai parking garage surveillance footage showed a Model S moments before the car burst into flames after smoke was resonating. Tesla has responded to the lawsuits and other claims of the company’s cars resulting in accidents by saying, “high-speed crashes can result in fires whether the car is powered by gasoline or batteries.” Grossman responded to this by saying this was not the issue in his client’s case because all the first responders needed to do to save his life was have access to the Model S door handles.

Dr. Awan leaves behind a family and an issue to be solved by Tesla. Even after the crash, and after firefighters extinguished the flames, the Model S reignited and began burning at a local tow yard. Tesla is one of the world’s most innovative companies we have, but tragic stories like these are eye-opening. The American people are brought back to the reality of just how safe we must be with technology and automobiles.

Lawsuit Alleges Man Died in a Burning Tesla Because its Futuristic Doors Wouldn’t Open





Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Lays Out the Technologies He’s Betting Will Take the Company Past its $1 Trillion Valuation

With a $10.7 billion profit on a $33.1 billion revenue, Microsoft has achieved a $1 trillion valuation. It is the third US-based company to exceed this market cap and has since seen its stock price surge by over four percent within a month. The company attributes its growth to its Azure cloud business, a key strategic area that has transformed the company into a cloud computing leader.

According to CFO Amy Hood, Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing business had material growth in $10 million-plus contracts. In addition, the overall commercial cloud business, which includes Azure, Office 365, and other cloud services, has increased quarterly earnings by nearly 36% to reach $11.6 billion. Customers like Walgreens Boots Alliance have bought packages from Microsoft that include Azure Cloud and other AI offerings with cloud-based subscriptions to Microsoft Office. This hybrid cloud approach allows companies to use a single set of tools for data stored on their own servers, as well as on shared space.  According to  Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, the company has a “very competitive and growing footprint” in business applications: “even when you think about something like Microsoft 365, we never participated in spite of our past success with all the first-line work and now we get to participate in it.”

Interestingly, the commercial cloud business isn’t the only area of focus for Microsoft. Hood says that the company would invest in areas like security, compliance, communication, workflow and business-process reinvention. The aim is to look for areas where there is room for durable and expansive growth. Services like LinkedIn have noticed a growth spike as an increased number of recruiters and job seekers have utilized the service. Along with Office and Dynamics, these three services brought in $10.2 billion in quarterly earnings. Even the company’s gaming business saw strong growth, which is attributed to the rise of the online video game, Fortnite.

There is no doubt that the cloud space is a source of Microsoft’s growing value, but in order to keep growing, the offering must maintain its profitability. This will require long-term growth stemming from selling more services and products to customers — that is, Microsoft gaining a bigger share of how much companies and agencies spend on technology overall.

Many have regarded the $1 trillion valuation as a significant feat for the company and investors are paying close attention amidst fears of a slowing global economy. Despite outperforming the estimates, senior leadership isn’t quite fazed by it. According to Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer, “this is a metric that nobody on the senior leadership team is tracking.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Lays Out the Technologies He’s Betting Will Take the Company Past its $1 Trillion Valuation

Expanding Corporate Responsibility: JPMorgan’s New Hiring Initiative

JPMorgan Chase (“JPMorgan”) recently began tackling a systemic problem long faced by the formally incarcerated and convicted felons by removing the standard criminal background inquiry from its application process. This policy, also known as the “second chance program,” stems from a new effort to increase corporate social responsibility. 10% of JPMorgan’s new hires last year were people with criminal backgrounds. This amounted to roughly 2,000 new hires. The company hopes that the second chance program will help eliminate biases that prevent otherwise qualified applicants from being prematurely overlooked.

The second chance program is the first of many initiatives undertaken by JPMorgan’s new policy center. Former Deputy Secretary of State, Heather Higginbottom, is leading the center, which will focus on “issues such as job skills and education, small business growth, economic development and affordable housing.” Higginbottom states that the goal of the policy center is to accomplish “real policy change,” and the first steps involve reinstating Pell Grants for ex-convicts and removing prior criminal convictions as barriers to employment.

Higginbottom hopes to address the significant obstacles former convicts experience in the job market. For example, formerly incarcerated people have an unemployment rate of over 27%, which is higher than the total unemployment rate during the Great Depression and more than five times the current rate. JPMorgan hires employees with criminal backgrounds for a variety of jobs and found that it has in no way affected the effectiveness of their employees.

The center is adamant that change allows it to select from a broader pool of applicants and affect its community in a positive way. Higginbottom says that “the economy works well for some people and it’s not working well for others . . . [and] business has a role to play in advancing some of the solutions to those problems.”

The creation of the policy center and JPMorgan’s emphasis on corporate social responsibility follows a recent shift in leadership’s definition of corporate purpose. In August, 181 CEOs of major U.S. corporations issued a Business Roundtable letter that expanded the definition of “purpose of a corporation” to include a “modern standard for corporate responsibility.” Thus, in addition to maximizing shareholder value, the letter emphasized the importance of corporate social responsibility. With this is mind, hopefully more companies will follow JPMorgan’s lead and address the entrenched social problems that our increasingly polarized U.S. Congress cannot efficiently confront.

Expanding Corporate Responsibility- JPMorgan’s New Hiring Initiative

Don’t Worry About Us, Worry About China: Why Facebook Went from Appeasing to Criticizing China

Recent comments by Mark Zuckerberg—thus far hardly known as a China critic—suggest that Facebook is abandoning its charm offensive aimed at China and shifting toward its own flavor of an “America First” policy. After years of trying to enter the Chinese market, Zuckerberg now unabashedly invokes the specter of Chinese dominance in technology to thwart critics. For instance, Zuckerberg recently told the House Financial Services Committee that his Libra cryptocurrency experiment would “extend America’s financial leadership,” while warning Congress of China’s progress in cryptocurrency technology. However, some view Facebook’s change as a sleight of hand designed to divert attention away from the company’s mistakes.

China’s a great country”—said Zuckerberg, employing the full extent of his Mandarin proficiency at a Tsinghua University conference in 2014. The next year saw Zuckerberg jogging through a smog-covered Tiananmen Square and meeting with President Xi Jinping in Seattle. During these years, Facebook worked hard to reverse China’s decision in 2009 to ban its website, a decision made amidst Uyghur riots in China’s Xinjiang province. But Facebook made little progress: Facebook did not utilize a 2015 permit to open an office in Beijing and only briefly registered before quickly taking down a subsidiary in Hangzhou in 2018.

Facebook now seems to have abandoned its efforts to scale the Great Firewall of China altogether. Instead, Zuckerberg has started to characterize Facebook as the antithesis of Chinese authoritarianism. Speaking at Georgetown University in October this year—at an event named “Standing for Voice and Free Expression”—Zuckerberg warned that “China is building its own internet focused on very different values.” Zuckerberg called attention to “our services, like Whatsapp, [that] are used by protesters and activists everywhere,” in contrast to “TikTok, the Chinese app…. [where] mentions of these protests are censored.” Meanwhile, in August, Facebook deleted accounts attempting to undermine the protests in Hong Kong.

At the same time, Facebook is facing a litany of antitrust probes, hostile central banks, privacy investigations, and other challenges. Facebook is currently under three antitrust investigations in the United States, respectively launched by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Congress, and a group of 47 attorneys-general. In Europe, governments and central banks have set a “very high bar” for regulatory approval of Libra. In July, Facebook paid $5 billion to settle privacy cases with the FTC. And this month, California’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Facebook, alleging non-compliance with inquiries over its privacy management. Further, prominent people, such as presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, now argue that Facebook should be broken up. It is against this backdrop that Zuckerberg tries to take the moral high ground by emphasizing American values and looming Chinese dominance—to conquer the hearts and minds of the voting public, if not the regulators and politicians.

Don’t Worry About Us, Worry About China- Why Facebook Went from Appeasing to Criticizing China

The Future of Cryptocurrency: From the Bitcoin Whitepaper to National Virtual Currencies

Cryptocurrency entered our lives in 2009 with a “whitepaper” introducing Bitcoin. The revolutionary agenda of Bitcoin was to create a decentralized system by eliminating financial institutions from transactions. Bitcoin garnered tremendous interest from people with a variety of interests and from a variety of fields. In last ten years, countless cryptocurrencies have emerged to form a billion-dollar market.

Facebook recently introduced a cryptocurrency called “Libra.” Economists question its legitimacy and compliance with securities provisions. With Facebook still reeling from its various privacy scandals, regulators doubt its incentives in entering the virtual currency industry. Their primary concern is that Facebook will use private spending information to optimize its advertisement algorithm. The Federal Reserve has made clear its reservations about Libra, and five European countries have explicitly stated that they will block Libra in their countries.

Since Libra was unveiled in June 2018, Facebook’s various business ventures have struggled against a backdrop of being thwarted by regulators. Meanwhile, China is creating a government-backed national virtual currency akin to Libra. Chinese officials have declared the initiative’s disruptive potential to carry the world to a new financial system.

China seeks to achieve “controlled anonymity” with its upcoming digital currency. Some economists feel this is an oxymoron. For virtual money to become currency, the anonymity that people could gain from cash should be preserved, according to Flex Yang. Otherwise, it only has value as a payment tool. Regardless, Chinese authorities plan to scrutinize transactions made via the new virtual currency.

Sweden, Canada, and Australia have also put forward significant efforts to release their own cryptocurrencies. However, much of cryptocurrencies’ value lies in its neutrality and anonymity, features which disappear when sovereign cryptocurrencies require identification for virtual wallets and the like. Bitcoin remains a standout among cryptocurrencies for this reason—success that Libra and sovereign cryptocurrencies will find difficult to replicate.

The Future of Cryptocurrency- From the Bitcoin Whitepaper to National Virtual Currencies

“Back off Bezos”: Amazon Money Fails to Flip Seattle City Council

Amazon spent $1.6 million to make the Seattle City Council more business-friendly, but the failed foray into local politics may cost the company far more in the long run.

In 2015, Amazon and its employees donated about $130,000 to Seattle City Council candidates. In 2019, that total increased tenfold, with $1 million donated just weeks before election day. The money flowed to a local business advocacy organization that spent funds to support pro-business—and therefore pro-Amazon—candidates. The advocacy group spent the most to defeat Kshama Sawant, a fierce critic of Amazon. And while early results indicate that the efforts successfully ousted Sawant, there is no sign that Amazon will come away with a landslide victory. On the contrary, the donations have landed Amazon’s feud with Seattle in the national spotlight and may prove to heighten discomfort with big tech.

Though Amazon takes pride in its Seattle roots, tensions have grown between the company and its hometown in recent years. In 2018, the City Council proposed a per-employee tax designed to make the largest corporations contribute to funding affordable housing and homeless services in the city. Locally based giants, including Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft, joined together to fund a campaign against the “Tax on Jobs.” Amazon threatened to freeze its planned construction and halt its growth in the city if the tax were imposed. The backlash was so significant that the City Council repealed the tax just a month after passing it. The fear of a revived “Amazon tax” likely drove Amazon to spend big in 2019 to reshape the Council in its favor.

However, that plan may have drastically backfired. The local election spending has landed Amazon in the national spotlight and may prove to be a flashpoint in the big tech and income inequality debate. Amazon and its supporters argue that the company has brought jobs and infrastructure to Seattle, making it a global tech center. Others, however, point to Amazon as the root of Seattle’s problems: the more than 50,000 employees at the company’s home base exacerbate the city’s soaring housing costs and homelessness crisis. Amazon’s effort to tilt the City Council so as to avoid a tax that would fund solutions to these problems undermines the company’s commitment to its community. The Seattle election saga will likely heighten skepticism of big tech in politics and may galvanize supporters of the policies that Amazon sought to defeat.

“Back off Bezos”- Amazon Money Fails to Flip Seattle City Council

Cybersurveillance – WhatsApp Sues Israeli Firm for Spying on Users

WhatsApp, a popular cross-platform messaging service, sued the Israeli cybersurveillance firm NSO Group in federal court in San Francisco on October 26, 2019. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, claimed that NSO’s technology was used to spy on more than 1,400 WhatsApp users across twenty countries.

Further, WhatsApp investigated the attacks, from April to May 2019, and found that the groups NSO targeted included one hundred journalists, prominent leaders, people who had faced unsuccessful assassination attempts, and various other members of civil society. NSO was using malicious voice calls designed to infect targeted phones with malware and steal messages from WhatsApp users in the United Arab Emirates, the kingdom of Bahrain, and Mexico.

NSO manufactures, distributes, and operates surveillance technology for governmental intelligence and law enforcement agencies all over the world. NSO was using WhatsApp servers to send the spyware to smartphones and other devices. The lawsuit was filed by WhatsApp in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California.

In WhatsApp’s complaint, it accused NSO of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a federal law, and raised state breach of contract and tortious interference claims. NSO said in a statement that it “will vigorously fight [those claims]” in the “strongest possible [way].” WhatsApp will be seeking damages and injunctive relief against NSO, to bar the company and anyone affiliated with it from using WhatsApp or Facebook.

WhatsApp’s legal team will aim to leverage the CFAA in an unorthodox way – to penalize hackers for both breaching WhatsApp servers and exploiting WhatsApp’s software to breach the devices of its users. This is a tricky legal argument because WhatsApp will have to show that it, as the plaintiff, was the victim in the hackers’ use of WhatsApp software to access users’ information, rather than the adversely affected users.

Riana Pfefferkorn, Associate Director of Surveillance and Cybersecurity at Stanford Law School noted that “part of [WhatsApp’s strategy] is a publicity exercise calling out NSO” and that “[WhatsApp] is trying to up the embarrassment factor for NSO and other…hackers for hire.” The WhatsApp-NSO conflict serves as a good wake-up call and cautionary tale for technology companies and their users. The possibility of sophisticated hackers gaining access to one’s user data is not remote and could affect anyone. Even prominent companies like WhatsApp may not have defenses sufficient to protect their users.

Cybersurveillance – WhatsApp Sues Israeli Firm for Spying on Users

Boeing: Ongoing Fallout Over the 737 Max Crisis

Dennis Muilenburg is having a tumultuous year. As Boeing’s president and Chief Executive Officer over the last give years, Mr. Muilenburg led Boeing through the two crashes and subsequent groundings of its 737 Max aircraft (“MAX”). As part of this ongoing saga, Boeing recently removed Mr. Muilenburg as Chairman of the Board after a multiagency task force released an investigative report as part of the re-certification process for the MAX. The report found that Boeing had not adequately informed regulators about the flight control software implicated in the two crashes, and that the Federal Aviation Administration lacked the ability to effectively vet Boeing’s assertions about the safety of the MAX. Mr. Muilenburg’s situation is reflective of wider executive scrutiny at Boeing as Kevin McAllister, the recently-removed head of Boeing’s commercial airlines division, can attest.

While Boeing shareholders fret over fraying airline relationships and an estimated $8 billion in losses stemming from the MAX groundings, U.S. lawmakers prepare for their chance to hold Boeing accountable. Mr. Muilenburg testified in front of Congress this week on the one-year anniversary of the Lion Air Flight 610 crash. House and Senate Committees are looking to Mr. Muilenburg for answers concerning the ongoing safety concerns and uncertain future of the large U.S. manufacturer.

Boeing’s recent Q3 earnings report provided a glimpse into Boeing’s financial outlook. Boeing reiterated confidence in the MAX recertification process, leaving its year-end timeline for MAX re-entry unchanged and continuing their current MAX production rate at 42 per month. Inventory build-up resulting from the MAX groundings continues to reduce cash flow, however, as approximately 275 completed planes are now awaiting shipment. Boeing also revealed that some customers have stopped making advance payments for completed planes.

Exemplifying Boeing’s customer concerns is Southwest Airlines’ (“Southwest”) CEO Gary Kelly, who recently announced that Southwest is reevaluating its policy of having Boeing as its sole supplier. Mr. Kelly’s statements are illustrious of both commercial airline and public sentiment surrounding Boeing’s recent MAX crisis. Moreover, the commercial airline duopoly between Boeing and Airbus suggests that Boeing will need to continue its publicity campaign to improve its image. Otherwise, Airbus may seize the opportunity to capture Boeing customers and gain market share against its largest competitor.

Boeing: Ongoing Fallout Over the 737 Max Crisis

PG&E’s Dwindling Resources – Preemptive Blackouts Suggest Critical Deficits

This past week, residents of Northern California prepared for the third major power outage in the last month as PG&E struggled to prevent its powerlines from causing hazardous fires. Extremely dry and windy conditions, combined with PG&E’s antiquated infrastructure, led the company to cut power to potentially millions of residents in an effort to prevent sparking wildfires.

Earlier this October, PG&E’s initial round of preemptive blackouts to hundreds-of-thousands of residents faced widespread disapproval. Politicians and customers alike were quick to criticize PG&E’s lack of preparation, as it largely failed to give advance notice of outages and its website crashed during the event. Governor Newsom weighed in on the matter by articulating the blackout’s threat to public safety and negative economic impact. Newsom ultimately proposed that PG&E compensate those that lost power.

However, while PG&E’s President and CEO, Bill Johnson, acknowledged the missteps, he insisted that the intentional outages achieved the goal of preventing fires and protecting human life. That being said, Johnson also recognized that failing infrastructure presents a significant challenge for PG&E moving forward, suggesting that Californians may be forced to deal with these outages for a decade as the company struggles to modernize and maintain basic operations.

Amidst the public backlash and widespread outages, PG&E proceeds with its bankruptcy filings, citing an impending multibillion-dollar lawsuit holding it accountable for last years’ Camp Fire that decimated Paradise, California. However, this is not the only trouble PG&E is facing. As power becomes less reliable, PG&E simultaneously increased rates, further aggravating customers. Accordingly, it is uncertain whether PG&E will overcome the latest allegations of its role in the recent Kincade fire, as its share price has reached a record low.

These financial woes, coupled with increased public scrutiny, have led some to question PG&E’s future. Governor Newsom recently indicated that it may be time to consider breaking up PG&E. Similarly, federal bankruptcy proceedings may result in PG&E surrendering restructuring power to bondholders. While the future of PG&E is uncertain, in the short term it appears that the preemptive power outages may be here to stay.

PG&E’s Dwindling Resources – Preemptive Blackouts Suggest Critical Deficits

China’s Economic Growth Slows to a 26-Year Low Amid Tariff and Other Woes

China has been a world economic leader for many decades. Well known for its rapid growth, China comes in at number two on the list of top economies in the world. Americans spend a lot of money on Chinese goods because of their intriguing low prices. Two factors leading to these low prices are the low standard of living in China and their exchange rate, which is fixed to the dollar. Computers, electronics, and clothing usually arrive in American homes with a “Made in China” label and many people are hoping for a cordial relationship between the two leading economic powers of the world. Companies like Apple have been in the media headlines extensively because they rely on China as a manufacturing base. Forbes magazine said, “an escalation of the trade war could impact the company’s revenues while inflating costs.

Recently, the United States and China haven’t agreed on trade. President Trump has been quoted saying that the goal of forcing China to abide by different rules is to ensure “unfair trade practices” do not continue. The President has also been stern in accusing China of stealing intellectual property from America. CNBC said, “[j]ust under one-third of CFOs of North America-based companies on the CNBC Global CFO Council say Chinese firms have stolen from them at some point during the past decade.” These actions have resulted in over $600 billion in annual loss to the United States economy. Trade secret theft has become a growing problem and President Trump is eager to put a stop to it.

Their disagreements have led to the Trump administration imposing tariffs of over $30 billion on Chinese goods. China responded by imposing tariffs of its own on over $100 billion worth of products from America. When Chinese products are more expensive for consumers and businesses in other countries, their economy is greatly affected. China has slowed to a twenty-six-year low because of these tariffs and it is ultimately not good for their businesses and reputation as being one of the world’s leading manufacturing hubs. There was a consensus forecast of 6.1% for China’s gross domestic product growth, but this third quarter span came in even lower at 6%. The country’s factory, retail sales, and investment forecast are all coming in at similar numbers, between five and seven percent. China’s government has an economic growth target of 6.5% to end the year, but according to Bloomberg, “deflationary pressures are hitting company profits and falling imports indicate that domestic demand is weak.”

Li Wei, a senior economist at Standard Chartered in Shanghai, China, said recently “[t]he growing trade tension between the United States and China is creating an industrial weakness and moderating consumer demand.” As a result, Chinese companies have had to transship products through other countries like Vietnam and Malaysia. To remain at the top of the world’s economic rankings, China and the United States must find solutions to the growing tensions.

China’s Economic Growth Slows to a 26-Year Low Amid Tariff and Other Woes