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Lawsuit: Google, Facebook CEOs Colluded in Online Ad Sales

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Newly unredacted documents from a state-led antitrust lawsuit against Google accuse the search giant of colluding with rival Facebook to manipulate online advertising sales. The CEOs of both companies were aware of the deal and signed off on it, the lawsuit alleges.

The original, redacted lawsuit, filed in December 2021, accused Google of “anti-competitive conduct” and of teaming up with the social networking giant. But the unredacted version offers details on the involvement of Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in approving the deal. Facebook has since renamed itself Meta.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, was “explicit that ‘this is a big deal strategically’” in a 2018 email thread about the deal that included Facebook’s CEO. While the names of the Facebook executives are still redacted in the suit, their titles are visible.

When the two sides hammered out the terms of the agreement, “the team sent an email addressed directly to CEO” Zuckerberg, the lawsuit states.

“We’re nearly ready to sign and need your approval to move forward,” the email read, according to the complaint. Zuckerberg wanted to meet with Sandberg and his other executives before making a decision, the complaint states.

In a statement, Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels said the lawsuit is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit.”

In September 2018, the complaint says, the two companies signed the agreement. Sandberg, who was once the head of Google’s ad business, and Pichai personally signed off on the deal, per the states’ complaint.

Meta spokesperson Chris Sgro said Friday that the company’s ad bidding agreement with Google and similar agreements it has with other bidding platforms “have helped to increase competition for ad placements.”

“These business relationships enable Meta to deliver more value to advertisers while fairly compensating publishers, resulting in better outcomes for all,” Sgro said.

Internally, Google used the code phrase “Jedi Blue” to refer to the 2018 agreement, according to the lawsuit. Google kept this code phrase secret.

Google’s Schottenfels said the lawsuit’s allegation that Pichai approved the deal with Facebook “isn’t accurate.”

“We sign hundreds of agreements every year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different,” he said, adding that the agreement “was never a secret.”

The lawsuit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and was joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

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Is Mourinho Running Out of Time at Roma?

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Mourinho’s appointment on a 7.5m euros per year contract for three years was greeted with much talk by club and manager of “the project”.

When Jose Mourinho was named Roma manager last May, it was considered a major coup for the Italian club and the city gripped by a fervour and belief that he was the man to take them to the next level.

His appointment came almost exactly 20 years since Roma’s last Serie A triumph and, while there have been two Coppa Italia successes since, it was 2008 when fans last had any silverware to celebrate — and there was a sense things were about to change.

But things have not gone smoothly. The 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League (ECL) three months ago was the low point and their domestic form has also been patchy.

Roma are seventh in Serie A – the same position they finished last season and one that led to predecessor Paulo Fonseca’s departure — and on 9 January were 3-1 up at home to Juventus, only to concede three late goals and lose 4-3.

Mourinho said afterwards his players had suffered a “psychological collapse” — the kind of criticism familiar to those who have followed the Portuguese in his recent spells in charge of Manchester United and Tottenham. But despite those difficulties, he retains support from the club’s fans and owners. He has credit in the bank, for now at least.

‘If Mourinho can’t succeed at Roma, no-one can’

Mourinho’s appointment on a 7.5m euros per year contract for three years was greeted with much talk by club and manager of “the project”.

There was the promise of the necessary time required to build something new and long-lasting and of generous transfer funds available.

And Mourinho has been backed. In the summer, Roma signed Matias Vina, Rui Patricio, Marash Kumbulla, Eldor Shomurodov and Tammy Abraham for a total investment of 100m euros.

Things began well with seven wins from his first eight games in charge. But as winter set in, so results became gloomier. They lost the Rome derby to Lazio, were beaten by Juventus and AC Milan, suffered surprise losses to Venezia and Bologna and, of course, that embarrassment at Bodo/Glimt.

In fact, Roma have only really won one league game this season against a club considered to be at their level — a December victory at Atalanta.

Yes there have been other victories and their recent form has been OK — they have overcome Cagliari and Spezia in their past six matches — but the man who was supposed to help the club compete with the division’s stronger sides is not doing that yet.

It should be noted Mourinho did not inherit an easy situation.

Roma’s squad is unbalanced. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini are not contributing much to defensive work in midfield, forcing Jordan Veretout to play out of position, while defenders frequently suffer lapses in concentration.

Mourinho has forged a reputation as a master of building a strong, stubborn unit, yet issues around leadership and mentality — which pre-dated him — appear to have remained untouched.

So far, there are no signs of his trademark football. Where is the typical defensive solidity and cynicism of his teams? Roma tend to be caught off balance and concede easily, so will midfielder Sergio Oliveira, a decisive figure in last weekend’s win against Cagliari, be a new key for balance in front of the defence?

“Roma fans consider Mourinho the final chance — if he can’t succeed, no-one can,” said Matteo De Santis, a journalist with La Stampa in Rome. “It’s romantic to imagine he will finally bring a trophy to the club as it was him who talked about Roma’s ‘zero titles’ in 2009 when he was at Inter.

“He’s one of the most successful managers ever. Moreover, people love his attitude. He’s not scared to take on referees and journalists and to make specific requests to the club. Fans are with him unconditionally.”

‘Coppa Italia & Europa Conference League will define his season’

There was always a sense this was a gamble on the part of the club and Mourinho himself.

In some ways it is paying off for Roma. The manager, 59 next week, has added value to the club and its owners and there is a greater interest in them now. There are increased commercial opportunities, he is popular with fans and great for the media.

But, ultimately, what matters is how he shapes the team on the pitch. This is among the most difficult challenges Mourinho has ever faced and, having previously managed clubs of the stature of Chelsea and Inter Milan, there is a sense he will not get many more opportunities among Europe’s biggest clubs if the “failures” at Manchester United and Tottenham are not soon followed by notable success.

Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atalanta and Napoli are simply stronger in the league than Roma, and Juventus, albeit enduring a difficult season, are still Juventus.

So it is the Coppa Italia and Europa Conference League which represent two great opportunities for Mourinho in this campaign. Roma host Lecce on Thursday in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia and are into the knockout stages of the ECL, winning their group despite their defeat in Norway.

The path to a European trophy is a relatively clear one with his former club Tottenham, the other highest-ranked team involved in the group stages, eliminated. It is not so long ago Mourinho was dismissive of the second-tier Europa League. But now that he finds himself in European football’s new third-tier competition, it is one he must pursue.

The two cup competitions will define his season and go a long way to deciding how he is judged in Rome.

It is 61 years since the club’s only European trophy — the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup — and ending that barren run would only strengthen the view that Mourinho is the man to bring long-term glory to Rome.

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Sudanese Barricade Streets After 7 Killed in Anti-coup Protests

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Sudanese shuttered shops and barricaded streets with burning tyres and rocks Tuesday, staging angry rallies to protest against one of the bloodiest days since a coup derailed the country’s democratic transition.

Security forces on Monday opened fire killing at least seven people as thousands marched against the army’s October 25 takeover, taking the total number killed in a crackdown since the coup to 71, according to medics.

“No, no to military rule,” protesters chanted Tuesday in southern Blue Nile state, where some carried banners daubed with the slogan “No to killing peaceful protesters”, said witness Omar Eissa.

The protests come as Washington ramps up pressure in a bid to broker an end to the months-long crisis in the northeast African nation, with top US diplomats expected to arrive in the capital Khartoum for talks.

Sudan’s main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change, called for two days of civil disobedience to begin on Tuesday.

Fragile transition

“Shop closed for mourning,” signs read at Khartoum’s sprawling Sajane construction supplies market. One of the merchants, Othman el-Sherif, was among those shot dead on Monday.

Protesters — sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands — have regularly taken to the streets since the coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan nearly three months ago.

The military power grab derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule following the April 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, with prime minister Abdalla Hamdok resigning earlier this month warning that Sudan was at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival”.

The United Nations special representative Volker Perthes condemned the use of live ammunition on Monday, while the US embassy criticised the “violent tactics of Sudanese security forces,” the latest such appeals by world powers.

On Tuesday, police fired tear gas at dozens of protesters setting up roadblocks in east Khartoum, an AFP correspondent said.

“We took to the streets to express our opinion peacefully but the military forces confronted us with live bullets,” said protester Tarek Hassan.

“We call on all the Sudanese people, and to all the free revolutionaries, to barricade all the streets to announce the civil disobedience until the putschists fall.”

Outside the capital, hundreds of protesters also staged demonstrations in other cities, including in the states of Blue Nile and Kassala in the east, witnesses said.

Violence

Burhan on Tuesday formed a fact-finding committee to probe Monday’s violence, with its findings to be submitted within 72 hours, Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council said in a statement.

It comes as US Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, were expected in Khartoum, where they would “reiterate our call for security forces to end violence and respect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Sudan’s authorities have repeatedly denied using live ammunition against demonstrators, and insist scores of security personnel have been wounded during protests. A police general was stabbed to death last week.

Police on Monday said they had used “the least force” to counter the protests, in which about 50 police personnel were also wounded.

On Tuesday the “Friends of Sudan” — a group of Western and Arab nations calling for the restoration of the country’s transitional government, and which includes the US, European Union, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the UN — held talks in Saudi Arabia.

“Deep concern about yesterday’s violence,” Perthes, the UN envoy, said on Twitter, after attending the meeting via video link.

“International support and leverage is needed. Support for political process needs to go along with active support to stop violence.”

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Novak Djokovic Could Be Barred From French Open As France Passes New Vaccine Law

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Novak Djokovic could be barred from playing in the French Open as things stand now after the Sports Ministry said Monday there would be no exemption from France’s new vaccine law.

World No. 1 Djokovic arrived in his native Serbia on Monday after being deported from Australia on Sunday because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star, who lost a legal battle to overturn the decision to revoke his visa.

Vucic urged Djokovic to return where he would be welcomed.

But even as he flew home, doubts arose over whether Djokovic would be allowed to play at Roland Garros.

France’s vaccine pass law, approved by parliament on Sunday, will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places such as sports venues, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.

“The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be imposed, as soon as the law is promulgated, in establishments that were already subject to the health pass,” the ministry said.

“This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson. And this until further notice.

“Now, as far as Roland Garros is concerned, it’s in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope that it will be more favourable. So we’ll see, but clearly there’s no exemption.”

Djokovic, who was barred from his bid to win a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, has refused to get vaccinated and was criticized for attending public events last month after testing positive for the coronavirus.

He is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins in late June. But so far, England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they remain at their accommodation when not competing or training. The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the US Open, has said it will follow government rules on vaccination status.

More than 95% of all of the top 100 men and women in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two other men — American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the first major tournament of the year — the Australian Open — due to the vaccine requirement.

Asked if Djokovic would face any penalties for flouting his isolation while being infected when he returns to Serbia, Serbian officials said he would not because the country is not in a state of emergency.

Djokovic is a national hero in Serbia, whose president had called the court hearing in Australia “a farce with a lot of lies.”

Said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident: “Novak, welcome home, you know that we all support you here. They can take away your visa, but they cannot take away your Serbian pride.”

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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