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At the Edge of the World, a New Battleground for the U.S. and China

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TORSHAVN, Faroe Islands — The mere existence of the Faroe Islands is a wonder. Tall peaks of snow-patched volcanic rock jut out from the North Atlantic Ocean. Steep cliffs plunge into the deep waters of narrow fjords.

The remote collection of 18 small islands, which sit between Iceland and Norway, is known for a robust puffin population and periodic whale hunts. The semiautonomous Danish territory also has a thriving salmon industry.

Technology is not a common conversation topic among its 50,000 residents. Yet in recent weeks, the Faroe Islands have turned into a new and unlikely battleground in the technological Cold War between the United States and China.

The dispute started because of a contract. The Faroe Islands wanted to build a new ultrafast wireless network with fifth-generation technology, known as 5G. To create that new network, the territory planned to award the job to a technology supplier.

That was when the United States began urging the archipelago nation not to give the contract to a particular company: the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. American officials have long said Huawei is beholden to Beijing and poses national security concerns.

Then Chinese officials got involved. A senior Faroe Islands government official was recently caught on tape saying that the Chinese had offered to boost trade between the territory and China — as long as Huawei got the 5G network assignment.

“Commercially, the Faroe Islands cannot be very important to Huawei or anybody else,” Sjurdur Skaale, who represents the territory in the Danish parliament, said over breakfast in the capital of Torshavn this week. “The fact that the Chinese and American embassies are fighting over this as hard they are, there is something else on the table. It is about something else than purely business.”

No location is now too small for the United States and China to focus on as they tussle over the future of technology. The Faroe Islands, whose proximity to the arctic gives it added military importance, joins countries across Europe caught in the middle of the two superpowers over Huawei, the crown jewel of the Chinese tech sector.

For more than a year, American officials have applied pressure on Britain, Germany, Poland and others to follow its lead in banning Huawei from new 5G networks. They argue the company can be used by China’s Communist Party to spy or sabotage critical networks. Huawei has denied that it helps Beijing.

But if the European nations side with Washington, they risk harming their economic ties to China, which has a growing appetite for German cars, French airplanes and British pharmaceuticals.

In the Faroe Islands, Bardur Nielsen, the prime minister, has tried defusing the conflict. In a statement, he said his government “has not been pressured or threatened by foreign authorities in relation to the development of a 5G network in the Faroe Islands.”

Any decision about awarding a contract to Huawei, he said, would be made by the local telecommunications company, Foroya Tele.

Foroya Tele said in a statement that it is testing different technologies. The choice of a 5G network provider, it said, “requires significant considerations given the scale and importance of the investment for the Faroe Islands.”

For the people of the Faroe Islands, the debate over Huawei and 5G is rooted in salmon more than in download speeds.

Salmon is central to the territory’s economy. More than 90 percent of the Faroe Islands’ exports are fish, including salmon, mackerel, herring and cod. In the surrounding waters, thousands of salmon can be seen splashing inside large netted rings, where they are bred for meals in Paris, Moscow, New York — and, increasingly, Beijing.

After 2010, the islands’ salmon exports to China picked up. At the time, the Chinese government had slowed the purchase of the fish from Norway in response to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo in Oslo.

China now makes up about 7 percent of the Faroe Islands’ salmon sales. The Faroese government this year opened an office in Beijing to further expand trade.

In 2014, the islands’ salmon sales to Russia exploded after the European Union limited what fish other countries could export there. Those rules do not apply to the Faroe Islands because it is not a part of the European bloc.

In all, salmon exports from the Faroe Islands are expected to top $550 million this year, up from roughly $190 million a decade ago.

“This is the home place of Atlantic salmon,” Runi Dam, a consultant for local fishing companies, said while standing over giant pens filled with about 15,000 salmon each. “We have the perfect environment.”

Now the salmon business has become entangled in the fight over the 5G wireless network.

Last month, America’s ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, went public with warnings against Huawei. In an opinion piece in the local Faroe Islands newspaper, Ms. Sands said there could be “dangerous consequences” if the company was allowed to build the 5G network. When countries let Huawei in, she said, “they agree to work under Chinese communist rules.”

In another interview with Danish media this week, Ms. Sands accused a Huawei executive responsible for the Nordic region of “working for the Chinese communists,” who are “exporting their spying, their corruption and bribery around the world.”

Ms. Sands declined to be interviewed.

At the same time, China’s ambassador to Denmark visited the Faroe Islands at least twice in the past two months.

This month, the Danish national newspaper, Berlingske, published the transcript of an audio recording in which a senior Faroe Islands official is summarizing one of the meetings. Herálvur Joensen, a senior aide in the Faroese government, was caught on tape saying China’s ambassador had threated to block a trade deal — and more fish sales — if Huawei was not used for the 5G network.

“If Foroya Tele signed agreement with Huawei, then all doors would be open for a free-trade agreement with China,” he said in the recording. “If this doesn’t happen, then there won’t be a trade agreement.”

A spokesman for the prime minister said Mr. Joensen had not attended the meeting with the Chinese ambassador and was not available for an interview.

Huawei’s critics jumped on the revelations, saying the leaked recording showed the close links between Huawei and the Chinese government.

China’s ambassador, Feng Tie, wrote in Berlingske that the country did not pressure the Faroe Islands. “It’s my duty to secure that Huawei is treated fair and without discrimination in Denmark,” he said. “It’s not at all in Chinese culture to promote threats. Promoting threats is more known from the U.S.”

Huawei said in a statement it was not involved in any talks between the two governments.

In villages and harbors around the islands, people said they were bewildered about being thrust into a battle between China and the United States.

“It is a lice between two nails,” said Rógvi Olavson, who lives in Torshavn and is a lecturer at the local university. “You’re squeezed by the U.S. on the one hand and China on the other.”

While many residents said the Faroe Islands prefer the United States over China, several expressed anger at American officials for demanding that Huawei be banned. They said the company helped build the existing 4G network, which they use to make phone calls or share photos from some of the more far-flung areas of the islands.

Sissal Kristiansen, who designs sweaters and other clothing from Faroese wool, said she had listened to a recent interview with Ms. Sands.

“It awoke this, ‘Oh bugger off’ feeling in me,” she said. “We make our own decisions.”

Others are wary about harming economic ties with China, which they fear will retaliate if Huawei is not selected for the 5G network. Many locals remember an economic crisis in the 1990s, when about 10 percent of Faroese residents ended up moving abroad.

Today, unemployment on the islands is almost nonexistent — just 183 people were out of work as of Friday, according to government statistics. Like other Nordic countries, health care, education and other social services are free. There is virtually no crime.

“China is not just a nice customer, it is a necessity,” said Martin Breum, an arctic expert who has written about the Faroe Islands. The Faroese, he added, “have nothing else to sell to the rest of the world. They live off their fish.”

Martin Selsoe Sorensen contributed reporting from Copenhagen.



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Colleges Clamored for Seesaw. That Was once the Just right Information, and the Unhealthy Information.

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And it’s been a yr. In February, Mr. Sjogreen was once mapping out long-term initiatives from Seesaw’s downtown San Francisco workplace. Come March, he was once running from his Noe Valley area, juggling home-school tasks for his 9- and 12-year-old youngsters, identical to most of the staff, and Seesaw was once in “rapid-response mode,” as he put it.

Lecturers like Sharmeen Moosa, a first-grade trainer at a global college in Bahrain, determined Seesaw could be their remote-learning platform.

“Previous to Covid, I used it as only a virtual portfolio for children,” an internet choice of their drawings and recordings, Ms. Moosa mentioned, but if her college closed in February, her use “remodeled vastly.” She used the app for morning messages and day by day courses, including audio or video clips, posting further assets, and developing scholar assignments along side speaking with households.

Many different academics used the app in an identical techniques, exposing shortfalls that the corporate needed to race to mend.

The app, designed to paintings with iPads and Chromebooks, had hardly ever been used with Android pills. However now oldsters have been going online with Amazon Fireplace or Samsung units operating Android. A large number of scholars didn’t have e-mail addresses and wanted a unique option to log in from domestic. Lecturers, who may just not glance over scholars’ shoulders whilst they labored on an project, sought after to touch upon stored drafts sooner than scholars submitted a last model. Notification delays grew from a few seconds to hours. The corporate’s servers every so often slowed to a move slowly.

The ones problems supposed academics, households and colleges all fired questions at Seesaw for lend a hand. Mr. Sjogreen, who prided himself on getting again to shoppers nearly in an instant, discovered that simply wasn’t conceivable.

“I’m unhappy that throughout a time the place they have been so wired, we weren’t as responsive as we wish to be,” he mentioned.



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With Holiday Leases Empty, Ecu Towns See a Likelihood to Reclaim Housing

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LISBON — Lengthy prior to the coronavirus swept throughout Europe this spring, many towns have been complaining {that a} proliferation of temporary condo leases geared toward vacationers thru platforms like Airbnb used to be using up housing prices for locals and destroying the nature of ancient districts.

Now that the pandemic has all however bring to a halt the stable drift of tourists, many Ecu towns are seizing a possibility to push temporary leases again onto the long-term housing marketplace.

In Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, town govt is turning into a landlord itself through renting empty residences and subletting them as sponsored housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing division is threatening to take ownership of empty homes and do the similar.

Different town governments are enacting or making plans new regulations to curb the explosive expansion of leases aimed in large part at vacationers. Amsterdam has banned holiday leases within the middle of the previous town; a Berlin reliable warned of a crackdown on temporary leasing platforms “seeking to evade law and the enforcement of legislation”; and Paris is making plans a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.

For years, homes rented out for temporary remains have put power at the housing markets in different Ecu towns. Lisbon has greater than 22,000 Airbnb listings, in line with Within Airbnb, which tracks listings in towns all over the world. Barcelona has 18,000, and Paris — some of the platform’s biggest markets — has just about 60,000.

When vacationers are abundant, renting a belongings on a temporary foundation can also be extra profitable for house owners than a long-term tenant, one thing that town governments say has distorted housing markets in towns the place provide is already tight. In addition they accuse on-line platforms of circumventing regulations installed position to give protection to native markets.

“We can’t tolerate that lodging which may be rented to Parisians at the moment are rented all 12 months to vacationers,” the deputy mayor of Paris, Ian Brossat, mentioned in a telephone interview. Mr. Brossat additionally mentioned he used to be hoping to chop the choice of days in line with 12 months {that a} belongings can also be rented thru platforms like Airbnb — recently 120. He accused the corporate of breaching even that rule.

“Airbnb pretends to recognize the legislation, nevertheless it’s now not the case,” mentioned Mr. Brossat, who has written a guide important of Airbnb and its have an effect on on towns.

Airbnb denies any wrongdoing, in Paris or in different places. “They’ve set the principles, and we’re following the principles,” mentioned Patrick Robinson, Airbnb’s director of public coverage for Europe, the Center East and Africa. “The place there’s a lively dialogue about the correct laws, we’re a part of that dialog, and in the long run that’s for native politicians to come to a decision.”

He mentioned that Airbnb equipped registration main points and different information to the government in main tourism hubs like Lisbon, Paris and Barcelona to assist town officers put into effect their regulations. “We if truth be told assume that higher get admission to to information is the answer right here.” In September, the corporate offered Town Portal, which it says will permit governments get admission to to information that may assist establish listings that don’t agree to native laws, akin to unregistered listings.

Probably the most formidable initiative is arguably the only in Lisbon, which has began signing five-year rentals for empty temporary condominium residences. Those homes are then sublet at decrease costs to other folks eligible for sponsored housing. The town govt has put aside Four million euros, or about $4.7 million, for the primary 12 months of subsidies.

“We entered the pandemic with an enormous power on our housing marketplace, and we can’t manage to pay for to go out the pandemic with the similar set of issues,” mentioned town’s mayor, Fernando Medina. “This program isn’t a magic wand, however it may be a part of the answer when it comes to elevating the provision of reasonably priced housing.”

This system is aiming to draw 1,000 condo house owners this 12 months, and has drawn 200 thus far. Mr. Medina mentioned he used to be assured that the plan would meets its function, since a rebound in tourism anytime quickly turns out increasingly more not going because the pandemic drags on.

The plan has been welcomed through some group associations that had criticized native politicians for permitting town to transform a playground for vacationers and rich traders, a lot of them interested in Portugal through residency lets in and tax breaks presented to foreigners after the 2007-Eight monetary disaster.

“The coronavirus has helped divulge the unfavourable sides of Portugal’s restoration from the monetary disaster, which used to be pushed through actual property and tourism quite than a focal point at the fundamental wishes of native other folks,” mentioned Luís Mendes, an city geographer who’s a member of a electorate’ platform known as Residing in Lisbon.

Above all, Mr. Mendes mentioned, the lockdown restrictions used to comprise the coronavirus put the highlight at the housing imbalances in Lisbon. “How are you able to quarantine for those who don’t have a good space?” he mentioned. “We’ve a town corridor that has put ahead a fascinating scheme and is no less than conscious that having a roof is a elementary human proper.”

Then again, some house owners don’t believe town govt a competent tenant. Portugal, they are saying, has a historical past of prison uncertainty and unexpected rule adjustments every time a brand new management takes workplace.

“When you take a look at the monitor document of the politicians in Lisbon, it’s a fully hopeless one, of incompetence and frequently corruption,” mentioned Rita Alves Machado, who owns 3 empty temporary residences round Lisbon. “The town owes cash far and wide, and I simply don’t consider they’re going to pay on time or stick with their very own regulations.”

The law of temporary leases has been a drawnout affair in Europe.

In September, the Court docket of Justice of the Ecu Union subsidized towns making an attempt to crack down on temporary leases, after supporting a French court docket ruling in opposition to two belongings house owners illegally renting out 2d properties on Airbnb. The court docket had issued a ruling in Airbnb’s prefer remaining 12 months, announcing that it used to be an on-line platform quite than an actual property corporate, which might have required it to agree to housing regulations. The Ecu Fee is taking additional steps to keep watch over the platform and others thru a brand new Virtual Services and products Act, which objectives to modernize the prison framework for such services and products around the Ecu Union.

The longer the pandemic hinders shuttle, the much more likely tasks like Lisbon’s are to realize traction, town officers and native belongings professionals say. Within the period in-between, Airbnb has discovered itself on moving flooring.

In Lisbon, occupancy charges for Airbnb and Vrbo, a short-rental reserving web site that used to be as soon as referred to as HomeAway, dropped 50 p.c in Would possibly from a 12 months previous, in line with AirDNA, which collects holiday condominium information.

Miguel Tilli, the co-founder of HomeLovers, a Portuguese actual property company, mentioned he have been record as many as 60 new homes a month in Lisbon — virtually all of which had prior to now been rented thru Airbnb however have been now open to long-term tenants.

Apartment costs within the town have dropped 10 p.c because the get started of the pandemic, however landlords who had prior to now let homes thru Airbnb have been nonetheless immune to decreasing rents.

“Many landlords are performing as though Covid is any person’s else downside,” Mr. Tilli mentioned. “That can’t remaining without end.”

Raphael Minder reported from Lisbon, and Geneva Abdul from Paris.



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Apple, Google and a Deal That Controls the Web

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A former Google government, who requested to not be known as a result of he was once no longer authorized to speak about the deal, stated the possibility of shedding Apple’s site visitors was once “terrifying” to the corporate.

The Justice Division, which is calling for a court docket injunction combating Google from getting into into offers like the only it made with Apple, argues that the association has unfairly helped make Google, which handles 92 p.c of the arena’s web searches, the middle of customers’ on-line lives.

On-line companies like Yelp and Expedia, in addition to firms starting from noodle stores to information organizations, frequently whinge that Google’s seek domination permits it to fee promoting charges when other people merely glance up their names, in addition to to persuade customers towards its personal merchandise, like Google Maps. Microsoft, which had its personal antitrust combat 20 years in the past, has instructed British regulators that if it had been the default possibility on iPhones and iPads, it will make extra promoting cash for each seek on its rival seek engine, Bing.

What’s extra, competition like DuckDuckGo, a small seek engine that sells itself as a privacy-focused choice to Google, may by no means fit Google’s tab with Apple.

Apple now receives an estimated $eight billion to $12 billion in annual bills — up from $1 billion a yr in 2014 — in trade for construction Google’s seek engine into its merchandise. It’s most definitely the one largest fee that Google makes to any person and accounts for 14 to 21 p.c of Apple’s annual earnings. That’s no longer cash Apple can be keen to stroll clear of.

If truth be told, Mr. Cook dinner and Mr. Pichai met once more in 2018 to speak about how they might building up earnings from seek. After the assembly, a senior Apple worker wrote to a Google counterpart that “our imaginative and prescient is that we paintings as though we’re one corporate,” in step with the Justice Division’s grievance.

A compelled breakup may imply the lack of simple cash to Apple. However it will be a extra important danger to Google, which might haven’t any obtrusive technique to change the misplaced site visitors. It would additionally push Apple to obtain or construct its personal seek engine. Inside Google, other people consider that Apple is among the few firms on the planet that might be offering an impressive choice, in step with one former government. Google has additionally frightened that with out the settlement, Apple may make it harder for iPhone customers to get to the Google seek engine.



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