DEFENSE DEPARTMENT KILLS JEDI CLOUD CONTRACT WITH MICROSOFT

by The Chicago Times Staff

July 6, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it had canceled a contentious cloud-computing contract with Microsoft that had the potential to be worth $10 billion.  Instead, it will seek a deal with both Microsoft and Amazon, as well as possibly other cloud service providers.

The Pentagon faced lengthy legal challenges from Amazon over the original $1 million contract awarded to Microsoft.  Amazon claimed that the Microsoft award was tainted by politics, citing then-President Donald Trump’s animosity toward Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who resigned as the company’s CEO on Monday.  Bezos owns The Washington Post.

JEDI will be replaced by a new program called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, according to Sherman, and Amazon and Microsoft will “likely” be awarded parts of the contract, though neither is guaranteed.  According to Sherman, the three other major cloud service providers might include Google, IBM, and Oracle.

“We understand the DoD s rationale, and we support them and every military member who needs the mission-critical 21st century technology JEDI would have provided,” Microsoft said in response to the Pentagon announcement.

Amazon said it understands the Pentagon’s decision and agrees with it.  The company stated in a statement that the 2019 contract award was not based on the merits of competing proposals, but rather on “outside influence that has no place in government procurement.”

The JEDI project began with Microsoft receiving a $1 million contract as the first step in a 10-year deal with a potential value of $10 billion.  The project that will replace it is a five-year program, with Sherman estimating that the contract value will be “in the billions.”

Sherman stated that the government will negotiate the amount Microsoft will be compensated for the cancellation of its 2019 contract.

Amazon Web Services, a market leader in cloud computing, had long been viewed as a strong contender to lead the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, or JEDI.

The project’s goal was to store and process massive amounts of classified data, allowing the US military to improve battlefield communications and use artificial intelligence to improve war planning and fighting capabilities.

FEDEX ANNOUNCES PROFIT AS REVENUE ROSE 30%

by The Chicago Times Staff

June 25, 2021

MEMPHIS, TN — FedEx made an almost $2 billion profit in the most recent quarter, after losing the previous year, thanks to an increase in online shopping and the expansion of its business-to-business shipping services.

During the epidemic, package delivery businesses like FedEx were in great demand as more people stayed at home and shopped online.  FedEx has been distributing COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.

The Memphis, Tennessee-based corporation reported $1.87 billion in net income for the three months ended May 31, compared to a $334 million loss the year before.

FedEx reported a 30 percent increase in revenue to $22.57 billion, exceeding expectations.

FedEx Corp. shares plummeted 4.34 percent to $290.50 in after-hours trading Thursday, after more than doubling in the previous year.

$1.2 MILLION FINE LAID ON IKEA FOR SPYING ON EMPLOYEES

by H. Haverstock

June 15, 2021

PARIS — A French court ordered IKEA to pay a 1 million euro ($1.2 million) fine for spying on its French employees on Tuesday, after the world’s largest furniture retailer was found guilty of improperly gathering and storing employee data.

The French branch of Ingka Group, which owns the majority of IKEA stores worldwide, has been accused of spying on its employees and some customers for several years.  The flatpack furniture company, which admitted to some improper practices, was accused of violating employees’ privacy by reviewing bank account records and sometimes using phony employees to write up reports on staff.

According to worker representatives, the information was used to target union leaders in some cases or to IKEA’s advantage in customer disputes after the company trawled data on people’s finances and even what cars they drove.  It was also discovered that it had paid for access to police files.

Prosecutors had sought a fine of 2 million euros.  Lawyers for France’s CGT union and several individuals seeking compensation said the final sum was not large, but they were pleased with the result.

After taking steps to eliminate the surveillance tactics, the company said it was reviewing the court decision to see if additional measures were required.  IKEA Retail France has strongly condemned the practices, apologized and implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again.

IKEA employs approximately 10,000 people in France, its third largest market after Germany and the United States, and has experimented with new formats there, including a store opened in the heart of Paris in 2019. 

Jean-Louis Baillot, the firm’s former chief executive in France, was found guilty in the case and sentenced to two years in prison with a two-year suspended sentence.  He was fined 50,000 euros by the judges for storing personal data.

In total, 15 people were charged in the trial.  Two of the accused, including a police officer, and Stefan Vanoverbeke, who ran IKEA in France from 2010 to 2015 and still holds a senior position in the group’s retail operations, were found not guilty on all charges.

Others were found not guilty of some charges, such as systematically disclosing confidential information, but guilty of others, such as illegally obtaining personal data.

Sanctions ranged from a 5,000 euro fine to several suspended prison sentences for a former human resources manager.

After the allegations surfaced in 2012, IKEA fired several managers and overhauled its internal policies.

The Swedish company has long denied establishing a widespread espionage system and was cleared on Tuesday of systematically violating personal data.

HACKERS HIT ELECTRONIC ARTS

by The Chicago Times Staff

June 11, 2021

REDWOOD, CA — Electronic Arts, one of the world’s major video game producers, announced Thursday that hackers broke into its servers and took 780GB of key material, including source code and other internal tools.

According to an EA official, the business was aware of the incident and that no player data had been compromised.

“We are investigating a recent incident of intrusion into our network where a limited amount of game source code and related tools were stolen…There was no access to player data, and we have no reason to assume that player privacy has been jeopardized…We have already made security changes as a result of the event, and we do not expect any negative effects on our games or business…As part of this continuing criminal investigation, we are actively collaborating with law enforcement officers and other experts.”

EA further clarified that it was not a ransomware attack, in which hackers encrypt a company’s data and demand payment in exchange for its decryption.

The EA intrusion follows a couple of high-profile ransomware attacks in which meat producer JBS and the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45 percent of the East Coast’s gasoline supply, each paid $11 million and $4.4 million in ransoms.

INFLATION KICKS CAMPBELL’S IN THE CAN

by The Chicago Times Staff

June 10, 2021

CAMDEN, NJ — Campbell’s, which is known for soups, pasta sauces, and snacks from brands like Pepperidge Farms and Prego, saw increased demand during the early days of the pandemic, but sales of snacks fell 8% in the third quarter, while sales of soups and jarred pasta sauces fell 14%, according to the company’s third-quarter earnings report.

As more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 and spend more meals outside the home, it is a hint that fewer individuals are continuing to stock up on shelf-stable foods and packaged products with eateries reopening.  Campbell’s net sales fell 11% in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, when the pandemic was at its peak and stay-at-home orders were plentiful.

Mark Clouse, CEO of Campbell Soup, said the company’s prices for suppliers such as raw materials, as well as freight and labor, have risen.  The corporation is “putting pricing in place” for the upcoming fiscal year due to inflation.

Following its earnings release on Wednesday afternoon, Campbell’s Soup’s stock dropped 6%.

GENERAL MOTORS BREAKS GROUND ON CHARLOTTE TECHNICAL CENTER

General Motors

June 3, 2021

CONCORD, N.C. – General Motors broke ground today on the new Charlotte Technical Center, a 130,000-square-foot facility that will expand GM’s performance and racing capabilities. Additionally, the center will accelerate strategic knowledge transfer between motorsports and production vehicle development.

Representatives of Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports joined GM for the groundbreaking at the complex in Concord. The site was selected for its proximity to partner racing teams and major technical suppliers. The new technical center will support racing efforts across all series in which GM competes.

The facility is a $45 million investment for GM and is scheduled to open in early 2022.

“After more than a year of unprecedented challenges for everyone, we reevaluated our plans and found we could expand the footprint and scope for the Charlotte Technical Center to make it an even greater resource,” said Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president of Performance and Motorsports. “This new location and larger facility is a clean-sheet design, tailored for technology development and collaboration with our racing teams and technical partners.”

Construction has begun on the new facility. A previously announced site was repurposed by GM Defense for production of the new Infantry Squad Vehicle, a light and agile troop carrier developed for the U.S. Army.

The center’s location, in the heart of one of the nation’s racing hubs and near colleges and universities, will provide more opportunities for GM to recruit top talent in the fields of software engineering, computational science, electrical engineering and other technical skill sets.

“The new Charlotte Technical Center will expand GM’s engineering footprint in the epicenter of racing in the United States, and will improve our engineering speed and capability in both the racing and production environments,” said Jim Danahy, GM vice president of Global Safety, Systems and Integration. “It will be a strong hub for the racing and production engineering teams to collaborate, share resources and learn together, delivering better results more quickly both on the racetrack and in our production vehicles.”

Development technologies often make their way from the racing world to production vehicles. A combination of virtual simulation and physical testing is used to meet the quick development time frames for motorsports teams. The testing methods used in racing, along with frequent competition, provide valuable training experiences for GM production vehicle engineers.

The new technical center will feature advanced virtual tools, including three state-of-the-art Driver-in-the-Loop simulators, aero development and other software-enabled vehicle modeling technology that will enable faster analysis and iteration. The facility will expand GM’s capacity to process, analyze and leverage vast amounts of data, allowing its racing and engineering teams to optimize designs earlier in the development process while simultaneously delivering greater first-time quality.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) is a global company focused on advancing an all-electric future that is inclusive and accessible to all. At the heart of this strategy is the Ultium battery platform, which powers everything from mass-market to high-performance vehicles. General Motors, its subsidiaries and its joint venture entities sell vehicles under  Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, CadillacBaojun and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety and security services, can be found at https://www.gm.com.

General Motors