Archive for Kevin Shalvey

Ted Cruz joins forces with other GOP lawmakers to call for an end to mask mandates for vaccinated travelers, ahead of Independence Day

Senator Ted Cruz without a mask on an escalator in the US Capitol
Sen. Ted Cruz reflects on a Capitol Hill escalator.
  • A group of GOP senators on Friday asked the CDC to end federal mask requirements for travelers.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz said the guidelines were an "outdated and unnecessary mandate."
  • The group introduced a three-page bill in the Senate on Thursday.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A group of Republican senators led by Ted Cruz on Friday announced a bill seeking an end to federal mask mandates for vaccinated travelers on planes, trains, and other public transport.

Mask requirements from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have outlasted their purpose, the lawmakers said.

The CDC in February recommended that travellers stayed home until they were fully vaccinated, but still required everyone to wear a mask while on public transport. The same was true for the TSA, which extended its requirement until September. Airlines have their own requirements, too.

"Americans should be able to travel to celebrate Independence Day with their friends and loved ones without having to follow an outdated and unnecessary mandate," Sen. Ted Cruz said in a statement accompanying the bill.

In addition to Cruz, the GOP effort involved Susan Collins, Jerry Moran, Roger Wicker, Cynthia Lummis, and Marsha Blackburn. It came as states across the country continued loosening restrictions on daily life.

TSA mask mandates have led to altercations in airports and on flights, where cabin crews have had to deal with unruly passengers. Flight attendants have described "unprecedented" violence. The TSA in July will restart its self-defense training for flight crews.

Travelers wearing masks line up at an airport in Colorado.
Masked travelers at Denver International Airport.

A frequent flier last week sued seven airlines, saying vaccinated travelers should be able to fly without masks.

The resolution, introduced in the Senate on Thursday, said the CDC could incentivize more people to get vaccines by dropping the mask requirement.

The three-page text said that getting rid of the mask mandate "would be instrumental in helping the economic recovery of the United States by boosting travel and benefitting the travel and tourism industries without sacrificing public health."

In late May, the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, said the mask requirement on public transit was a "matter of safety, but it's also a matter of respect" for flight crews.

The World Health Organization in a Friday press briefing said vaccines alone won't end the pandemic. The organization urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks.

Collins in a statement said she'd spoken with flight attendants about the mandate. The senator said she'd heard about "horrendous and unthinkable violence" on recent flights.

If vaccinated people on the ground no longer need masks indoors, then fliers don't need them either, Collins said.

"It makes no sense that someone can go to a restaurant without wearing a mask, but they cannot fly on an airplane without one, even though it has a far better ventilation system," she said.

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NASA tells lawmakers that it wants to see moon landings occur annually for 12 straight years

blood moon australia
People watch the "Super Blood Moon" rise over the Pacific Ocean at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia on May 26.
  • NASA wants to go to the moon every year for a dozen years.
  • Administrator Bill Nelson on Wednesday outlined the agency's plans during a House committee meeting.
  • "There needs to be a landing each year for a dozen years," Nelson said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

NASA wants to go to the moon every year for a dozen years.

Agency Administrator Bill Nelson on Wednesday said the $2.9 billion contract awarded to SpaceX for the Artemis program marked the beginning of what would be a series of ambitious projects to return often to the moon.

"There are different plans - what was awarded was just for one demonstration," Nelson told the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. "There needs to be a landing each year for a dozen years. So there are many more awards to come, if you all decide it's in the interest of the United States to appropriate that money."

The committee hearing was on NASA's 2022 budget request for $24.8 billion, a 6.6% increase over its 2021 budget.

The budget hearing came as the agency deals with the fallout from awarding the SpaceX contract. Three bidders submitted proposals for the project. NASA had been expected to award contracts to two bidders. But the sole contract went to SpaceX.

Some experts and onlookers questioned the decision to award an important contract to a single partner. One of the bidders, Blue Origin, a space exploration company founded by Jeff Bezos, challenged the award. The project is now in a black-out period, paused while the Government Accountability Office studies NASA's process.

The agency had requested $3.4 billion for the competition, but was handed $850 million in appropriations instead. Still, Nelson in his prepared remarks praised the "collaborative approach" of the public-private Artemis program.

He said: "By taking a collaborative approach in working with industry and international partners while leveraging NASA's proven technical expertise and capabilities, we will return American astronauts to the Moon's surface once again, this time to explore new areas for longer periods of time."

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A rare NASA camera lens created by Zeiss is going up for auction in Austria, while a Leica prototype by Apple’s Jony Ive has been pulled from the sale

Close up Carl Zeiss Planer 50mm 07 aperature lens
Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm lens with an aperture of f/0.7.
  • A rare Ziess lens designed for NASA's Apollo moon missions will go up for auction in Vienna.
  • Germany lens maker Ziess produced 10 of the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7 lenses, selling most to NASA.
  • The lens is expected to sell for between €100,000 and €120,000 in next weekend's auction.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

When one of the rarest photo lenses in the world goes up for auction next weekend in Vienna, Austria, it's expected to fetch between €100,000 and €120,000.

The lens, a Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7, was designed by the German lens-maker in 1966 for NASA. The agency needed a lens capable of capturing light in the darkest circumstances, perfect for pictures of the moon during its Apollo Missions. Only 10 of the lenses were manufactured. NASA bought six of them.

"This is one of these ten lenses that Zeiss made at that time," said Andreas Schweiger, of Leitz Photographica Auction, which is running the auction. "Most probably, this is one of the lenses delivered to NASA."

Schweiger spoke to Insider last week via Zoom from his office in Vienna, where his team's readying for a live auction at the city's Hotel Bristol, scheduled for June 12.

For the last few weeks, boxes containing historic and rare camera equipment have been arriving at the auction company's doorstep. Most came from private collectors.

"They get their camera as a gift from their grandparents, for example, or they find maybe a camera in the attic," Schweiger said. "When they don't know what to do, they look up on the internet and hopefully they find us."

Rolleiflex Cameras owned by US Photographer Walker Evans
Rolleiflex cameras owned by Walker Evans.

Among the rarities that will go on the auction block are a "Luxus" model gold-plated Leica that's wrapped in lizard skin (starting bid €100,000), a Leica MP2 with Electric Motor (starting bid €150,000), and a 1924 Leica owned by Ernst Leitz II, who manufactured the first Leica cameras (starting bid €40,000).

There will be a trio of Rolleiflex cameras owned by American photographer Walker Evans (starting bid €20,000), and a pair of Leicas (starting bid €6,000) owned by Felice Quinto, an early Italian paporazzo.

A Jony Ive Leica Prototype

There will, however, be one missing item.

A prototype of a Leica camera designed by Apple's Jony Ive and British designer Marc Newson was expected to be among the most-watched items on sale. The camera was on the auction catalog's cover. It was one of a kind.

Leica Jony Ive Prototype Austria Auction
A Leica prototype designed by Jony Ive and Marc Newson.

Schweiger said the seller decided at the last minute to pull the camera. It would have had a starting bid of €150,000, with a final sale expected from €200,000 to €250,000.

It was a test model for the only completed Leica camera by the designers, which went up for sale in a 2013 charity auction. It sold for $1.8 million.

Schweiger wouldn't say more about the prototype's owner, or why the item had been pulled from the sale. Michal Kosakowski, Leitz Photographica Auction's product specialist, who was also on the Zoom call, said that the owner was in the US.

Ahead of the auction

Most of the difficult work of putting together the catalog and auction was done by the time Schweiger and Kosakowski spoke with Insider.

They'd unpacked all the boxes. Kosakowski's team had checked that the cameras and lenses were mostly in working order. Sometimes they'd run a roll of film through the camera, but most of their work was done using machines. Then they'd photographed each item for their website.

The rare Zeiss lens was designed by a team led by Dr. Erhard Glatzel, who would later be given the Apollo Achievement Award, said Silke Schmid, head of the Zeiss Museum of Optics in Germany.

Zeiss Planar 0.7/50 on a Nikon Camera Body.
The Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7 on a modified Nikon F body.

"In the 1960s, he was one of the leading scientists and managers in the lens design department at Zeiss in Oberkochen, Germany," Schmid told Insider last week. "His creations were world-renowned, including the Zeiss Hologon and the Zeiss Planar 0.7/50."

The lenses were so effective at gathering light that NASA had planned to use them to photograph the far side of the moon. (Insider reached out to NASA for confirmation.) Of the 10 produced, three went to director Stanley Kubrick, who needed them to shoot candlelit scenes for "Barry Lyndon," Schmid said.

"Kubrick located three 50mm f/0.7 Ziess still-camera lenses, which were left over from a batch made for NASA," said cinematographer John Alcott, who worked with Kubrick, according to "The Stanley Kubrick Archives."

That marked "the first time in film history that it was possible to shoot without using artificial light," Schmid said.

Schweiger said he was eager to watch the bidding begin. As the auctioneers spoke to Insider, some of the early online bidding ahead of the live auction had already begun. The Zeiss Planar had two bids, raising the price to €55,000, but that was still only half its expected selling price.

"So we see bids coming in and so on, and we get a little bit of the feeling how the lots are treated, how interesting are the lots for our customers," Schweiger said. "So, it's both stressful and exciting."

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As Amazon prepares its Sidewalk launch, privacy experts are raising concerns. One described the tech company’s plans as ‘another monumental step in surveillance capitalism.’

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
  • Amazon on Tuesday will launch Sidewalk, a network connecting Alexa and Ring devices.
  • Privacy experts told Insider the network raised concerns about customer data and privacy.
  • They highlighted the prospect of potential data leaks and the implications of location tracking.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

As Amazon prepares to launch its Sidewalk network on Tuesday, privacy and tech experts are discussing whether customers should be worried about their Alexa devices being linked to those owned by neighbors.

"It's only a matter of time before personal information is leaked from these devices," Eric Null, US policy manager and global policy counsel of Access Now, told Insider on Friday.

The Sidewalk network will connect eligible Alexa and Ring devices to others nearby, including those owned by strangers. The connections will expand home-broadband networks and strengthen connectivity, Amazon said.

If one WiFi network slows down, a neighboring network might help boost its speed. Amazon said it would encrypt data sent between devices.

After Amazon announced Sidewalk in 2019, the company faced a backlash from some in the tech world who were concerned about customer data and privacy. Over the last few months, Amazon has been notifying customers, giving them the option to opt out of the network before its June 8 launch in the US.

Users who don't opt out will be able to do so after the launch. New customers will be asked whether they want to turn on Sidewalk as they set up their Echo or Ring devices.

Some privacy experts said the network wouldn't raise new concerns for customers who were happy with the privacy settings on their Alexa devices.

"If you're already comfortable with the Amazon Ring and Echo systems, there's no additional privacy loss," said Jon Callas, director of technology projects at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Their work on the security and privacy is pretty good."

amazon ring doorbell
A Ring doorbell.

Others said they were concerned about the newest and largely untested Sidewalk features, which were sure to be targeted by hackers as they rolled out around the US.

Device owners linked into the Sidewalk network won't be able to control the security settings on neighboring networks or devices, even as their personal data runs through them, said Lourdes M. Turrecha, a professor at Santa Clara University and founder of The Rise of Privacy Tech.

"To be fair, Amazon has stated that the data will be encrypted. That said, given the fight over encryption backdoors, Amazon Sidewalk poses increased surveillance threats, and is another monumental step in surveillance capitalism," Turrecha said.

Amazon's roadmap for Sidewalk would likely include new business opportunities for the tech giant, said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, in an emailed press statement.

Amazon has also announced a Sidewalk Developer Service, inviting manufacturers to build devices that would work on the Sidewalk network.

"I anticipate that we'll see a flurry of innovative use cases for Sidewalk over the next 12 to 18 months as a growing number of third-party companies embrace it to offer micro-tracking and more," Wood said.

Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, told Insider that Sidewalk was "just Amazon's latest move to solidify and entrench their ever-growing surveillance empire."

Greer added: "They envision a world awash in Amazon devices that constantly watch us, listen to us, monitor our heartbeats, analyze our emotions and record our movements. Sidewalk is an attempt to lay the foundation for that dystopia."

The company published a white paper and launched a website with details about the tech behind Sidewalk.

Customers who are linked in to Sidewalk would "contribute a small portion of their internet bandwidth" to the network, according to Amazon. The network would then use Bluetooth and other frequencies to expand customer networks.

"But of course, there has been a history of similar insecure technologies like WEP encryption and Bluetooth," said Null. "Amazon will be opening up millions of new vulnerable spots in the network by automatically enrolling so many Amazon devices into the network."

Callas said Sidewalk may also increase worries about location tracking. Amazon's partnership with Tile has led to concerns about stalking, although the company has said it's working to fix issues, he said. "We'll have to see how good it is," he said.

When Sidewalk was announced, much of the concern was about its launch as an opt-out feature. Those concerns haven't gone away.

"The right way to go about this would've been to build the case for the mesh network, allow people to join via opt-in, and then build on the project from there," Null told Insider. "That option is of course more difficult, which is why Amazon went with the option that benefits it the most, but that's no excuse for taking such an irresponsible action."

An Amazon spokesperson declined an interview request ahead of the launch.

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Big Tech and government officials have praised the ‘significant, unprecedented’ G7 deal to back a global corporate tax rate of at least 15%

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in London on Friday.
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in London on Friday.
  • Tech companies signaled approval of a "significant" deal to back a 15% global minimum corporate tax.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said it was a "significant, unprecedented commitment."
  • Facebook welcomed "the important progress made at the G7," VP Nick Clegg told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

As finance ministers from the Group of Seven countries agreed on Saturday to back a 15% global minimum corporate tax rate, the world's biggest tech companies signaled approval.

"Facebook has long called for reform of the global tax rules and we welcome the important progress made at the G7," said Nick Clegg, vice president for global affairs at Facebook, in an emailed statement.

The agreement announced in London between the wealthy G7 nations marked a meaningful step toward closing often-used international tax loopholes, which have allowed the biggest companies in the world to sidestep taxes at home and aboard.

The official announcement via the UK government called the deal a "seismic agreement," adding that it meant the "largest multinational tech giants will pay their fair share of tax in the countries in which they operate." It did not name specific companies that would be affected.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the deal marked a "significant, unprecedented commitment."

"That global minimum tax would end the race-to-the-bottom in corporate taxation, and ensure fairness for the middle class and working people in the US and around the world," said Yellen, who is in London for the talks.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in London on Friday.
Sunak and Yellen on Friday.
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the deal was a "huge prize" for British taxpayers.

An Amazon spokesperson told Insider, "We believe an OECD-led process that creates a multilateral solution will help bring stability to the international tax system. The agreement by the G7 marks a welcome step forward in the effort to achieve this goal. We hope to see discussions continue to advance with the broader G20 and Inclusive Framework alliance," .

A Google spokesperson told Reuters: "We strongly support the work being done to update international tax rules. We hope countries continue to work together to ensure a balanced and durable agreement will be finalized soon."

Clegg, of Facebook, added, "Today's agreement is a significant first step towards certainty for businesses and strengthening public confidence in the global tax system. We want the international tax reform process to succeed and recognize this could mean Facebook paying more tax, and in different places."

Ursula von der Le yen, president of the European Commission, said the bloc had been pushing for "modernisation & more international cooperation on business taxation."

"This agreement is a big step towards fairness and a level-playing field," she added.

Others were less enthusiastic. Oxfam, for example, said the G7 deal as "setting the bar so low that companies can just step over it," according to Reuters.

"It's absurd for the G7 to claim it is 'overhauling a broken global tax system' by setting up a global minimum corporate tax rate that is similar to the soft rates charged by tax havens like Ireland, Switzerland and Singapore," the charity said.

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Coca-Cola vending machines have been removed from a North Carolina county’s offices over its CEO’s stance on a Georgia voting law. It follows conservatives’ previous calls to boycott the company.

Coca-Cola Logo on Wall Street
Coco-Cola's logo on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • A North Carolina county banned Coca-Cola vending machines in the wake of the Georgia voting law.
  • Surry County officials voted to remove them after Coca-Cola's negative comments, NBC News reported.
  • The Georgia law "is unacceptable, it is a step backward," Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told CNBC.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Officials in a North Carolina county removed Coca-Cola vending machines from their offices after the soda-maker's chief executive spoke out against a voting law in Georgia

In a letter sent to Coca-Cola executives, a Surry County official said Coca-Cola's comments on Georgia's controversial voting law were a "disappointment," NBC News reported.

"Our Board hopes that other organizations across the country are taking similar stances against Coca-Cola and sincerely wishes that future marketing efforts and comments emanating from your company are more considerate of all your customers' viewpoints," Eddie Harris, Surry County commissioner, wrote in a letter viewed by NBC's "Today."

Critics said the Georgia law, SB 202, "The Election Integrity Act of 2021," added restrictions to the voting process that amounted to voter suppression. President Joe Biden in a statement in March said the law was "a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience."

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey joined a handful of high-profile company executives in denouncing the law earlier this year, with many saying it restricted the right to vote. Coca-Cola is headquartered in Georgia.

"Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal, this legislation is unacceptable, it is a step backward," Quincey told CNBC in late March.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also commented on the law, saying it "ought to be easier than ever for every eligible citizen to exercise their right to vote."

The move by North Carolina officials followed a call from former President Donald Trump in April to boycott "woke" companies opposing the law.

Trump's comments came after Major League Baseball relocated its All-Star game out of Georgia. He urged conservatives to "fight back" by boycotting Coca-Cola, Delta, JPMorgan Chase, and other companies that opposed the law.

NBC News reported on Friday that Surry County officials said Coca-Cola supported the "out-of-control cancel culture and bigoted leftist mob" that fought back against the law.

"We decided we wanted to push back against this woke cancel culture, push back against Coca-Cola, because they were one of the ones out front," Harris told Fox News on Friday.

He said he'd received hundreds of emails in support of the ban, which he said could lead to a boycott of the company. He said local citizens supported the removal.

"They're absolutely sick and tired of this outrageous left-wing mob that is attacking freedom of speech, attacking people's jobs, that is completely out of control in this country," Harris told Fox News.

In statements to Fox News and NBC News, Coca-Cola said its local staffers had reached out to county commissioners about the ban.

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Ted Cruz has won a lawsuit against the FEC over a loan to his re-election campaign. A federal court ruled that his freedom of speech rights had been violated.

Senator Ted Cruz speaks to an audience in Jerusalem in May
Sen. Ted Cruz in May.
  • Federal court ruling says FEC violated Sen. Ted Cruz's First Amendment rights with repayment limit.
  • Cruz loaned $260,000 to his 2018 re-election campaign, which was $10,000 over the repayment limit.
  • The "loan-repayment limit burdens political speech" three federal judges wrote.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A federal court has handed Sen. Ted Cruz a victory, saying a $250,000 limit on post-campaign repayments to candidates violated his First Amendment rights.

On April 1, 2019, Cruz's campaign filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission after contributing $260,000 to his 2018 reelection campaign. He sued as he attempted to repay his personal loan.

"We find that the loan-repayment limit burdens political speech and thus implicates the protection of the First Amendment," a trio of federal judges wrote on Thursday in a memorandum opinion.

They added: "Because the government has failed to demonstrate that the loan-repayment limit serves an interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption, or that the limit is sufficiently tailored to serve this purpose, the loan repayment limit runs afoul of the First Amendment."

Thursday's ruling amounted to another victory for conservative politicians and donors, who have long sought to remove limits on political fundraising. The Supreme Court in 2010 ruled against the FEC in its case against Citizens United, striking limits on corporate election spending, and giving rise to super PACs.

In the back-and-forth between Cruz and the FEC, the commission's lawyers said last year that Cruz had intentionally broken the rules, forcing his lawsuit.

Cruz's campaign staffers started discussing taking action against the repayment limit as early as 2012, according to court filings.

"Those discussions continued for several years, concurrently with Senator Cruz's preparation to run for reelection in 2018," FEC lawyers wrote as they sought a summary judgement in 2020.

Cruz had raised more than $35 million during the campaign against Beto O'Rourke. But the day before the election, Cruz loaned his campaign $260,000. As polls closed on November 6, 2018, his campaign had $2.38 million in cash on hand, according to court filings.

Campaign finance law allowed campaigns to repay up to $250,000 in personal loans from candidates, but they had to wait 20 days before distributing the funds.

Within that 20-day waiting period, Cruz's campaign could have repaid the extra $10,000 using cash on hand on election day, according to the FEC.

"The plaintiff repaid no money during that period, however, because they wanted to bring this lawsuit," the commission said in a court filing.

Cruz's campaign waited 20 days, then began repaying the funds.

In an email to his campaign 2 days after the deadline, Cruz said, "Since more than 20 days have passed, it would be REALLY good if we could pay back at least some of the $250k now. Our cash is really getting stretched."

In the lawsuit filed on April Fools Day in 2019, Cruz's team said the limit on repayments violated the First Amendment rights of candidates. Cruz argued that his campaign should have been able to continue raising funds after the election to repay the $10,000 balance of his personal loan, according to the filing.

The limit on repayment "restricts the political speech of candidates and their campaign committees by limiting the time period in which the candidate may raise money to communicate his or her political message and by effectively limiting the candidate's ability to lend the campaign necessary funds," Cruz's lawyers wrote in their complaint.

Insider has reached out to Cruz's office for additional comment.

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As Tesla Solar Roof customers file another lawsuit, California is set to decide whether to combine them into a single class-action complaint

Tesla CEO Elon Musk with a hardhat.JPG
Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Germany this week.

A California judge will decide whether two complaints filed against Tesla will be combined into a single lawsuit, as plaintiffs across the US pursue a class action over Solar Roof price hikes.

Eight Tesla customers this week filed a complaint in US District Court in the Northern District of California, alleging the company violated California law by increasing the price after they'd signed contracts.

The complaint said Tesla's actions were a "classic bait-and-switch," increasing the agreed-upon price for each customer's Solar Roofs and energy-storage batteries, called Powerwalls.

The filing marked the second California lawsuit against Tesla to seek class-action status in as many weeks. Homeowners around the country have spoken out about Tesla unilaterally raising their prices. Many of those homeowners have had difficulty getting customer service support after their prices were altered.

Tesla did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Judge Lucy H. Koh will decide whether to combine the two cases, according to a court order filed this week after the second California lawsuit.

That order was to be expected, since the cases were similar, said Brian Fitzpatrick, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School and author of "The Conservative Case for Class Actions." Otherwise, he added, "multiple judges could end up reinventing wheels in similar cases."

He said he expected the cases to be consolidated, after which there would be a "rigorous" process of discovery. Only then would a judge decide whether the case fits the requirements for class-action status.

"I doubt these cases will get to that point for at least another year," Fitzpatrick said after reviewing the most recent filings.

A Solar Roof and Tesla Powerwall in 2016.JPG
A Solar Roof and Tesla Powerwall.
The two California complaints came after a similar complaint was filed by a couple in New Hope, Pennsylvania. They said their contract had been increased to $78,352.66 from the original $46,084.80. Each of the three complaints sought class-action status.

The Pennsylvania couple's attorney, Peter Muhic, of LeVan Muhic Stapleton, is also co-counsel on the new filing in California.

"We seek nationwide relief," he said via email, noting that the suits included plaintiffs from California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

In the newest complaint, the homeowners said Tesla raised the prices of their contracts - most by more than 50% - after they'd been signed. Tesla also told customers they would "risk losing their place in line" for an installation they didn't "pay promptly," according to the complaint.

One of the plaintiffs, Mattias Astrom, placed an original order in 2017 for a Solar Roof for his home in Lexington, Massachusetts. The complaint said he paid a $1,000 deposit, then waited three years for an installation. He cancelled the order in December 2020 without getting the roof.

Astrom entered a new order in January 2021, with a $100 deposit against a full price of $150,013, according to the complaint. In April 2021, he received an email from Tesla saying his price had been increased 52% to $228,008.

In Fullerton, California, Sol Kim signed a contract for a $39,658.44 project in February 2021. He refinanced his mortgage to fund the project. In April 2021, Kim got an email saying the price had increased to $52,337.30.

The Tesla project manager working with Kim told him that it "was a company-wide update to the pricing structure," according to the complaint.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk in April addressed customer concerns, saying: "We did find that we basically made some significant mistakes in assessment of difficulty of certain roofs."

In the complaint filed on Tuesday, the plaintiffs said the company used several methods to determine their roofs' complexity during the ordering process.

The customers first plugged information about their homes into a Tesla website, then Tesla used a combination of aerial photos and on-site visits to identify "anomalies or unique shapes." After that, the contract would be drawn up and signed, according to the complaint.

In Roslyn Heights, New York, Anupama Vivek paid a $1,000 deposit for a Solar Roof in April 2020.

In March 2021, Tesla notified Vivek that there would be a new $4,214 charge for roof preparation and pre-construction costs, bringing her total contract to $58,805.48, according to the complaint.

Less than a month later, the company increased the price to $77,333.03, according to the court filing.

The complaint said the company "knowingly marketed, advertised, and promised to provide and install its Solar Roof systems at prices that the company knew it would not honor and on delivery dates the company knew it could not meet."

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India has told social-media companies to remove posts that mention the ‘Indian variant’ of COVID-19, say reports

Family Members of a Coronavirus Patient Mourn in Bengaluru India.JPG
Family members of a man who died of the coronavirus mourn before his cremation near Bengaluru, India.
  • India's tech ministry reportedly asked social-media companies to remove the term "Indian variant."
  • The demand was sent via a letter on Friday, Reuters and AFP reported.
  • The letter reportedly said the phrase "Indian variant" was "completely FALSE."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Members of India's government asked social-media companies to remove mentions of the "Indian variant" from their networks, according to multiple reports.

A letter, which was not made public, was reportedly sent by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to social media companies on Friday, telling them the phrase "Indian variant" was "completely FALSE."

AFP reported that the letter asked companies to "remove all the content" related to the informal name.

According to Reuters, the letter said: "There is no such variant of Covid-19 scientifically cited as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO has not associated the term 'Indian Variant' with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports."

Officials in India for months have pushed for social-media companies to remove some content related to COVID-19.

Data about the spread of the virus posted on social media has been "creating panic" among the public, the country's tech leadership said in a recent letter.

The government on Friday published a pair of open letters addressed to "all social media platforms" and signed by Rakesh Maheshwari, group coordinator for Cyber Laws and E-Security.

It was unclear which tech companies received the letters, although Twitter, Facebook, and others have large user bases in India.

In one of the letters, dated May 7, Maheshwari wrote: "While corona has created a hue and cry across the country today, it has been reported in media that there is a trend of circulation of misinformation, false/ misleading news and sharing anonymous data related to Corona virus in various social media platforms creating panic among public."

The government also asked for the companies to issue warnings to "imposters," who they said have posted false or misleading data.

In February, Indian officials announced new regulations for Twitter, Facebook, and other big social-media networks. They'd have to be "more responsible and accountable," an official told Reuters at the time.

Earlier in February, Twitter suspended about 500 local accounts after Ministry officials sent several orders asking for users to be blocked.

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Twitter prepares to launch Ticketed Spaces, with a plan to take a 20% cut of the revenue as the company vies with Clubhouse for audio hosts

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.JPG
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
  • Twitter plans to take a 20% cut of Ticketed Spaces revenue, after fees.
  • Creators will have control over ticket prices and the number of tickets available.
  • Both Twitter and Clubhouse have partnered with Stripe to process payments to creators.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Twitter plans to start rolling out its Ticketed Spaces feature to a limited group of users soon, which will allow creators to charge for exclusive access to their content.

The company's planning to let hosts set their own ticket prices, with as much as 80% going to the host after Apple and Google take their in-app purchase fees. Twitter plans to take the remaining 20%.

Hosts will also have control over the number of tickets available.

Twitter has been testing its Spaces audio-chat rooms since late last year, upping the company's competition against Clubhouse, the buzzy upstart, which has seen its growth fall off a cliff.

Twitter earlier this month expanded the rollout of its new feature, allowing users with more than 600 followers to host Spaces, which are akin to virtual conference rooms.

Both Twitter and Clubhouse have partnered with Stripe to handle payments for creators.

Clubhouse Payments, which launched in early April with a small test group, allowed users to tap on others' profiles to send cash. (Twitter tested a similar "Tip Jar" feature.)

Clubhouse said in a blog post that Stripe would add a card-processing fee to the top of those payments, but otherwise 100% of the payment would go to the recipient. "Clubhouse will take nothing," the company said.

Twitter introduced Ticketed Spaces earlier this month in a series of tweets. It said: "[W]e're working on a way for hosts to be rewarded for the experiences they create and for listeners to have exclusive access to the convos they care about most. soon, we'll test ticketed Spaces with a small group where hosts can set ticket prices and quantity."

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