Sep 25, 2017

Antitrust gets the John Oliver treatment

John Oliver accepts an Emmy at the September, 2017 awards ceremony. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Comedian John Oliver made the push for tougher antitrust enforcement his latest cause Sunday night. "The point is we have laws to prevent the worst effects of consolidation, and it may well be time to more aggressively use them to impose stricter standards and to empower the FTC and the DOJ's antitrust divisions," Oliver said in the feature segment of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight.

Why it matters: Oliver's blend of deep research and humor has been successful in the past at introducing complicated policy debates into the mainstream.

What he said:

  • Oliver took aim at consolidation is sectors as varied as airlines (where four companies dominate) and eyeglasses, where Luxottica owns many of the major retailers.
  • Though it's particularly fashionable to focus on consolidation in the internet space right now, Oliver limited his comments to this joke: "And online search engines are of course, as we all know, dominated by one major player, that's right, say it with me, 'Bing!' That's right, Bing, 'The best way to Google something.'"
  • He also had barbs for AT&T, the telecom giant that is planning to acquire Time Warner — which owns HBO (the network that airs Oliver's show). He took aim at Ma Bell during a segment on "infuriating" bag charges imposed by the airlines. "After all, if I wanted exorbitant fees that keep getting raised all the time despite [crappy] service I'd become a customer of AT&T. Yeah, f*** you AT&T. Even if you take over, you'll never be my real dad!" He also played footage of the show blowing up a cable set-top box, which he said was a market where consumers had suffered thanks to consolidation.

The bigger picture: Oliver's concerns track closely with a growing group worried about increased corporate power. That includes Congressional Democrats, who have made increased antitrust enforcement a part of their "Better Deal" platform. Oliver namechecked every industry — other than food — that Democrats included in the summer rollout of their position as he said that lawmakers should support stronger antitrust enforcement.

Go deeper

South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures as coronavirus cases jump

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures in their countries amid rising case numbers on Sunday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,462 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korea increased the infectious disease alert to red, the highest possible, as its case numbers jumped to 602 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures, with several towns in the north effectively placed in lockdown, as it confirmed two deaths and infections rose to 79.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

Bernie Sanders wins Nevada caucus

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waves to supporters at a campaign rally on Friday in Las Vegas. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders is projected to handily win the Nevada Democratic primary caucus, becoming the clear frontrunner among 2020 Democratic presidential primary election candidates.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state with a diverse population to hold a nominating contest, highlighting candidates' abilities to connect with voters of color — particularly Latino voters.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Heat wave melts 20% of snow cover from Antarctic island in days

The effects of February's record heat wave on Eagle Island in Antarctica. Photo: NASA

Antarctica's Eagle Island now has a side that's almost ice-free following this month's searing heat wave in the region, images released by NASA show.

Why it maters: "The warm spell caused widespread melting on nearby glaciers," NASA said in its report. It's the third major melt event of the 2019-2020 Southern Hemisphere summer, following warm spells in January and last November, according to the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).