Google Founder Building World’s Largest “Air Yacht” At Taxpayer’s Iconic NASA Hangar

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The Guardian tells us:

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building a hi-tech airship in Silicon Valley destined to be the largest aircraft in the world, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project.

“It’s going to be massive on a grand scale,” said one, adding that the airship is likely to be nearly 200 meters long. This would make it by far the world’s largest aircraft today, albeit smaller than the epic Hindenburg Zeppelins of the 1930s, or the American navy airship USS Macon that was once based in the very same hangars where Brin’s aircraft is now taking shape.

The sources revealed details of the airship on the condition of anonymity, citing confidentiality agreements. Brin has revealed nothing of his airship ambitions and is building the airship in a giant hangar on a Nasa airfield far from the eyes of the public.

Brin wants the gargantuan airship, funded personally by the billionaire, to be able to deliver supplies and food on humanitarian missions to remote locations. However, it will also serve as a luxurious intercontinental “air yacht” for Brin’s friends and family. One source put the project’s price tag at $100m to $150m.

Google’s use of the Moffett Field hangar at below market rates was called out by Senator Grassley (now chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee) in 2012 at the height of the Obama/Google love fest:

The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Two Independence Square
300 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20546

Dear Administrator Bolden:

I am writing you concerning Google Inc.’s (Google’s) partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its activities at Moffett Federal Airfield (Moffett Airfield) in Santa Clara County, California. My office recently received troubling allegations regarding the Google fleet of aircraft housed at Moffett Airfield.

As you know, this private airport is operated by the NASA Ames Research Center, and according to public reports, Google signed a forty year lease with NASA in 2008 for 42 acres at Moffett Airfield for $3.7 million per year.

According to information provided to my office, Google allegedly houses a variety of airliners including a Boeing 767, a Boeing 757, multiple Gulfstream G550s and helicopters.

Whistleblowers have questioned the benefit to the U.S. government from the Google fleet being housed at Moffett Airfield. A recent investigative report analyzed Google flight tracking data, which indicated only five percent of flights were science missions.

Further, many Google jets based at Moffett Airfield allegedly have flown all over the world, including Italy, the Caribbean, China and Ireland.

Additionally, my office received allegations that Google has purchased jet fuel from the government at a discounted price, a price allegedly well below the market price due to its tax treatment.

In order to gain a more complete understanding of these allegations, please respond to the following requests:

1) How did NASA arrive at the lease amount of $3.7 million per year? Does that represent a fair market rate for the lease? Which individuals at NASA and Google negotiated the lease amount?

2) As of the date of this letter, how many aircraft owned or operated by Google are present at Moffett Airfield? Provide detailed descriptions of all aircraft.

3) Why does Moffett Airfield house Google aircraft and when did this arrangement begin? Provide all contracts between Google, NASA, and/or the military related to aircraft and aircraft fuel at Moffett Airfield.

4) Please describe the agreements by which Google obtains fuel for its aircraft at Moffett Airfield and provide fueling records for each aircraft over the past five years.

5) Are any of the aircraft used to support NASA research? Provide a specific explanation regarding the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet.

6) Have any NASA officials flown on the Google aircraft? Please provide a list of each official and describe the nature and purpose of each trip in detail.

7) For each aircraft owned or operated by Google, provide all flight plans and passenger manifests for each flight originating and landing at Moffett Airfield in the last five years.

8) In the last five years, have any other aircraft owned by private companies or individuals housed aircraft at Moffett Airfield? If yes, provide a detailed description of the aircraft, the ownership of the aircraft.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to these matters. I would appreciate receiving a response by no later than May 25, 2012. Should you have any questions, please contact Brian Downey or Rob Donovan of my staff.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

@musictechsolve: Will Digital Aggregators Lead the Industry on Transparency with Spotify and Others?

The Music Managers Forum UK have criticized the “secrecy” arounds Spotify’s deals with major labels. According to Complete Music Update: The UK’s Music Managers Forum yesterday welcomed the news that Spotify had reached a new deal with Universal Music. However, the trade body criticised the continued secrecy that surrounds the deals made between the major […]

via Will Digital Aggregators Lead the Industry on Transparency with Spotify and Others? — Music Tech Solutions

@ryanlcooper: Google is a monopoly — and it’s crushing the internet

Five to 10 years ago, independent bloggers used to be able to getby on internet advertising, like the broadsheets of yore. But that changed quite quickly, and for two big reasons: Facebook and Google. They now gobble up the vast majority of internet advertising dollars — about 85 percent, as my colleague Jeff Spross writes — and a great many media outlets have been forced to move to direct subscriptions or other business models.

Google and Facebook manage this because they are platform monopolists. They can exert tremendous influence through their control of how people use the internet — and crush productive businesses in the process. Like any monopoly, it is long since time that the government regulated them to serve the public interest….

The upshot here is that both Google’s overwhelming search dominance and their profitable exploitation thereof are almost wholly unmerited in terms of their actual product. Google is a fine tool, but what defines the company is luck. Its profits come from a largely unearned strategic position within a socially-created communication medium. Devouring a small business that provided Google and the internet writ large with quality research simply to keep people fenced onto their own portion of the internet is just one particularly egregious example how this position can be abused.

Read the post on The Week

@andreworlowski: Google’s ‘adblocker’ is all about taking back control

The world’s biggest digital advertising company Google is reportedly building an ad-blocker into Chrome – and it’s already attracted the attention of Europe’s most important competition regulator.

The WSJclaimed the functionality could arrive in both desktop and mobile versions of Chrome, although a final decision on deploying the ad-killer has yet to be made.

Why would a company that has made such huge profits from advertising – almost 90 per cent of Google’s $89.4bn revenue last year came from advertising – seek to block users from seeing ads?

It’s all about control.

By maintaining its own “blocker”, Google would seize the initiative from third-party whitelists, and have a greater say in which ads were acceptable. In effect, Google would become the gatekeeper, the arbiter of taste, diminishing the role of Eyeo, which markets Adblock Plus.

Read the post on The Register

@scleland: Google’s ad blocking exposes the company’s hypocrisy on net neutrality

Let me be crystal clear: I strongly agree with advertisers and the advertising industry that there are way too many consumer-unfriendly ad formats and automated bad actors running amok on the Web. Legitimate and accountable ad blocking can be a good and necessary solution.

However, as we recently learned from Wall Street Journal, “Google plans to introduce an ad-blocking feature in the mobile and desktop versions of its popular Chrome browser.”

The problems spotlighted in this piece are not with ad blocking, nor with Google participating in legitimate and accountable ad blocking. The problem is first with Google’s hypocrisy, and secondly with Google’s monopolistic behaviors involving Google Chrome, Search, Android, and advertising. Those issues raise legitimacy and accountability questions specific to Google’s ad blocking.

Read the post on The Hill

@marksweney: Music Industry Goes to War with YouTube

[Editor Charlie sez:  And then Google shares the YouTube revenue with terrorists, neo-Nazis and illegal drug purveyors….]

The music business is a tough place for most artists to make money. This struggle was thrown into sharp relief last week when the UK industry revealed that artists earned more from vinyl sales in 2016 than they did from YouTube payments for viewings of music videos.

The BPI, the record labels’ association that promotes British music, says this is the latest example of YouTube exploiting the “value gap” between what it makes from online advertising shown around music videos and what finds its way to the artists’ pockets.

As if to add insult to injury, news of the paltry level of payouts came a day after figures showed that Google, and subsidiary YouTube, took home the lion’s share of the £10bn spent on internet advertising in the UK last year. BPI figures show UK vinyl sales growing for the ninth consecutive year in 2016, to a 25-year high of 3.2m units – driven by Blackstar, the final album by the late David Bowie – and making £41.7m for record labels and artists. By contrast, music video streaming, which is dominated by YouTube, funnelled just £25.5m to the industry.

“YouTube’s holding company [Google] can’t really have a motto ‘Do The Right Thing’ then pay one-seventh of the rates other streaming services pay,” said Allen Kovac, who has managed bands including the Bee Gees, Mötley Crüe and Blondie. “Moreover, Google drives audiences to YouTube, which devalues artists’ music. That’s a win-win for them, but a colossal loser for artists.”

Read the post on The Guardian

@claireatki: Google’s ‘Hate’ Video Crisis Could Become a $1 Billion Problem

This week, Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research was the first analyst to downgrade Google because of the dustup.

It began last week when marketing giant Havas pulled all of its ads from Google’s YouTube UK site following a report from the Times of London that British government ads had been placed alongside videos from white supremacist David Duke and anti-Semitic pastor Steve Anderson.

Wieser told The Post on Wednesday that the impact will be felt by Google, which instead of discussing how to take away TV ad dollars in upcoming ad negotiations will now be mired in “brand safety issues.”

“The marginal increase [in ad dollars] is less likely to occur,” Wieser said.

He said the impact on Google was likely to be around 1 percent of its revenue base, or $1 billion.

“Google’s stated solution was late and woeful,” Wieser said. “Given numerous opportunities to nip it in the bud, they’ve seemingly made it worse.”

Read the post on The New York Post