Ahead of Midterm Elections, U.S. Officials Warn of Russia While Trump Prevaricates

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coates said Thursday that Russia is “a keyboard click away” from disrupting America’s midterm elections. Joined by a collection of top security officials for a White House press briefing, he noted that Moscow’s meddlers “are looking for every opportunity, regardless of party.”

One must commend Coates for his candor. He is trying, desperately, to raise awareness about one of the gravest, immediate threats to American democracy, despite his boss’s intransigence on the matter. President Donald Trump has continued, in contrast, to prevaricate when asked about Russia’s interference in U.S. politics. His go-to: ignoring the consensus of the intelligence community, casting doubt on its findings, and offering Russian President Vladimir Putin a free pass. (As recently as two weeks ago—days after the disastrous Helsinki summit—he called Russia’s interference “all a big hoax.”)

Whether Trump realizes it or not, this approach serves to further the Kremlin’s aims: fomenting mistrust through disinformation. It is a shame to see it. These are not times for sophistry; the American public—and its allies abroad—deserve clarity and guidance. Nothing less than the integrity of the electoral system—the bedrock of this nation’s right to govern—is at stake.

During my cybersecurity session at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. last month, I cited another one of Coates’ recent remarks as a prompt for my panelists. Coates had warned in the days prior that “the warning lights are blinking red again” in a way not observed since the lead-up to the coordinated terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001. Jen Easterly, a security leader at Morgan Stanley and former White House counterterrorism official, replied lucidly. Her answer was so eloquent, I must quote it here in full.

“I’ll try not to use any double negatives,” Easterly began, alluding to Trump’s thin, post-Helsinki summit walk-back regarding Russia’s election interference. “There is no mystery. There is incontrovertible evidence of nation state-sponsored attacks and deliberate—it’s not just espionage—but deliberate sabotage against what we hold dear as part of our constitutional democracy: fair and free elections. I don’t say this as an employee of Morgan Stanley; I don’t say it as a former senior White House official; I say it as an American and, frankly, as a former military officer who spent 22 years in the army sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic.”

Her words were refreshing. It’s the kind of statement one might hope to hear from a chief executive.

This article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered to your in-box, sign up here.

'NBA 2K19' Player Ratings: Marvin Bagley III Render And Overall Rating Revealed

MBIII in 2K19Credit: 2K

</div> </div> <p>The&nbsp;19-year-old big man from Duke averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds in his lone year in college. Bagley helped lead the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight where they fell to the Kansas Jayhawks.</p>

Marvin Bagley 2K19 ratingCredit: 2K

</div> </div> <p>Still, his accomplishments in Durham, North Carolina weren’t enough to produce an overall rating higher than No. 3 pick Luka Doncic. On Friday, we learned Doncic would be receiving a 79 overall.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">7?9? <a href="https://twitter.com/luka7doncic?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/luka7doncic?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">@luka7doncic</a> is officially inside our game He’s starting off with a strong rating for a rookie. Too high or nah? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBA2K19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBA2K19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">#NBA2K19</a> <a href="https://t.co/YacQAuovjM" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://t.co/YacQAuovjM" rel="nofollow">pic.twitter.com/YacQAuovjM</a></p> <p>— NBA 2K19 (@NBA2K) <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA2K/status/1025412470674845697?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/NBA2K/status/1025412470674845697?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">August 3, 2018</a></p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Last year, No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball was rated a 79 overall and the No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum (another Duke alum) was at a 77.</p> <p>Obviously, we know Tatum would go on to have a better rookie season than Ball, but it’s a little rare to see the No. 2 pick rated lower than the guy at No. 3. The fact that the gap is two whole points makes it even more eye-popping. Overall,&nbsp;it seems ratings are up across the board and that’s something I’m still trying to understand.</p> <p>I’m still trying to get an interview with the man in charge of ratings to put the numbers in the proper perspective. At any rate, like every other player in the league, Bagley will have an opportunity to improve his rating over the course of the season.</p>

<p>Last year, Tatum went from a 77 to an 82 by season’s end. Sacramento is hoping they will see a similar spike in productivity and development from their Duke rookie.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>” readability=”40.487394958″>

Sacramento Kings rookie and No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III will be rated a 78 overall in NBA 2K19 when the game releases on September 11.

MBIII in 2K19Credit: 2K

The 19-year-old big man from Duke averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds in his lone year in college. Bagley helped lead the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight where they fell to the Kansas Jayhawks.

Marvin Bagley 2K19 ratingCredit: 2K

Still, his accomplishments in Durham, North Carolina weren’t enough to produce an overall rating higher than No. 3 pick Luka Doncic. On Friday, we learned Doncic would be receiving a 79 overall.

Last year, No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball was rated a 79 overall and the No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum (another Duke alum) was at a 77.

Obviously, we know Tatum would go on to have a better rookie season than Ball, but it’s a little rare to see the No. 2 pick rated lower than the guy at No. 3. The fact that the gap is two whole points makes it even more eye-popping. Overall, it seems ratings are up across the board and that’s something I’m still trying to understand.

I’m still trying to get an interview with the man in charge of ratings to put the numbers in the proper perspective. At any rate, like every other player in the league, Bagley will have an opportunity to improve his rating over the course of the season.

Last year, Tatum went from a 77 to an 82 by season’s end. Sacramento is hoping they will see a similar spike in productivity and development from their Duke rookie.

I write about sports and video games. I began my career with Bleacher Report in 2010 and I’m now a Forbes Contributor as well as a YouTuber, Twitch streamer and co-host of The Fight Guys podcast, The SimHangout, and my own weekly Q&A AskMazique. I’ve been blessed to make…

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Amazon forays into Australia with small loss

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc, whose entry into Australia last year rattled established bricks-and-mortar retailers, posted a modest loss in its earliest days in the country, corporate filings show.

FILE PHOTO: Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City,U.S., January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Amazon’s foray into Australia was met with fevered attention from investors and a steep selldown in traditional retail stocks.

The U.S. company launched its website on Dec. 5, though it ran preparatory operations through the year, racking up a modest loss of almost A$9 million ($6.6 million).

In the Christmas trading weeks from the launch to Dec. 31, it turned over A$6.3 million in direct sales versus total Australian retail sales of A$26.3 billion that month.

These figures, however, are unlikely to be indicative of the future performance of a company that reported losses and roller-coaster results for years, but is now the second-biggest company in the world and closely watched on Wall Street.

The Australian trading period was too short for meaningful analysis, said Evan Lucas, chief market strategist at fund manager InvestSmart.

“Amazon is not the kind of company that accepts failure – they have a longer term goal.”

Amazon hit logistical snafus in Australia’s vast interior and handed eBay Inc – market leader in Australia – some victory after a move last month to block Australians from shopping on its foreign websites drew customer backlash.

A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment on the filing and directed Reuters to previous commentary about record Australian sales during a promotion in July without quantifying them.

The filing was lodged in April but the results were not reported at the time. They were first reported on Friday by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Last week, Amazon forecast strong fall sales for its overall operations and posted a $2.5 billion quarterly profit that was double Wall Street targets on the back of its younger businesses – cloud computing and advertising.

($1 = 1.3569 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Manolo Serapio Jr.

Cisco Acquisition Of Duo Security Makes Sense

The acquisition of Duo Security by Cisco (CSCO) fits into the Cisco transformation strategy. The company is expanding its presence into the cloud with a subscription-based software solution.

It is a typical playbook acquisition Cisco will bring to scale. Moreover, the Duo solution enhances Cisco’s portfolio.

In this article, I describe how the acquisition makes sense for Cisco. Then, I determine if the company does not overpay for it.

Cloud security

Some technical background

Duo offers a cloud-based zero trust security solution. Zero trust means users are not trusted anymore. Authentication is always performed, anywhere, for any application.

In the pre-cloud area, users were trusted inside the enterprise. The Duo technology marks the shift of the authentication of mobile users using cloud applications. This new paradigm ignores the traditional perimeter of the enterprise.

The solution utilizes a two factors authentication: a password and a code sent to a smartphone. There are some variations, but we don’t need to know more in the context of the Cisco acquisition.

The Duo solution goes beyond the cloud-based two factors authentication. It extends to agent-less endpoint security (a Duo certificate is still needed).

Duo already supports the Cisco ASA firewall. It also supports other security vendors: Juniper (JNPR), Palo Alto (PANW), Fortinet (FTNT), etc.

Duo competes with Zscaler (ZS) and Symantec (SYMC), amongst others.

What is the strategy?

Now we have some understanding of the solution, let’s see if it fits into the Cisco strategy.

On the high level, Duo is a cloud-based, subscription-based security software solution. It is exactly the kind of business that Cisco is turning to. And it complements the Cisco umbrella framework.

Let’s now see how Duo makes sense on the technical level.

Cisco already has an identity and access solution for the enterprise with Cisco ICE. But this solution does not cover the cloud environment. Duo is the first entry to the cloud identity and access segment for Cisco.

On the medium term, Duo with Cisco will allow Cisco to provide an end to end zero trust architecture.

Beyond acquiring a complementary company in a growing market, Cisco also acquired a solution to bring to scale. And as Duo is a cloud-based solution, Cisco can easily scale it up. Duo’s channel partners account for only 30% of the sales. Cisco will use its massive channel partners network to grow the top line.

During the conference call, the management indicated the Duo solution would still be independent.

On the medium term, Cisco will integrate the solution. Duo is already compatible with the Cisco ASA firewall. But Cisco will expand the solution to many more devices and applications. SD-Wan is one of the possibilities.

Besides, Cisco can propose a simplified security policy by integrating Duo with many devices.

I see one potential issue, though. With this acquisition, Duo is losing its neutrality towards the other security vendors. Will Juniper and Palo Alto keep their solution compatible with Cisco/Duo products?

In any case, with the experience of Cisco to integrate companies, the integration risk is low. Especially with the fit of the Duo solution into the Cisco portfolio.

Thus, this acquisition makes a lot of sense as it enhances the Cisco portfolio, and Cisco will bring the Duo solution to scale.

Expensive acquisition?

Cisco gave very little financial information about Duo Security. The management mentioned a strong top-line growth and a healthy gross margin. Reading between the lines, it means that Duo is growing and losing money. The management will give more information when the deal closes by Q1 2019.

In the meantime, we know Cisco will pay $2.3 billion in cash. Duo employs 700 people and has more than 12,000 customers.

We can compare with Zscaler. The company, according to LinkedIn, employs 1,162 people. Its revenue is growing at about 50% per year, and the TTM sales amount to $167 million.

With the growing market and the potential to scale, the growth possibilities for Duo are huge. I estimate that the growth potential is comparable with Zscaler.

With $287 million in cash, the market values Zscaler at $4.3 billion. It represents 14x revenue or $3.45 million per employee.

Applying this multiple to the 700 Duo employees gives a valuation of $2.4 billion, which is very close to the price Cisco will pay.

We could argue that the market overvalues Zscaler, but we must consider the growth. At least, when comparing with the valuation of Zscaler, Cisco does not overpay.

Conclusion

The acquisition of Duo Security makes a lot of sense. It confirms the shift of Cisco to cloud-based software solutions.

Besides, the Duo solution expands the Cisco security portfolio. And Cisco can integrate Duo to its portfolio while bringing it to scale.

With the limited information we have, the price paid per employee is high. But the growth potential is enormous. Compared to the market valuation of Zscaler, Cisco did not overpay.

Disclosure: I am/we are long CSCO.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

The Strange Life of a Murderer Turned Crime Blogger

Squeeze the trigger of a gun and a spring unwinds. A bolt lurches forward. On that piece of precision-milled steel is a firing pin that ignites a spark and initiates a sequence of events which, if the human will is powerful enough and mechanical tolerance is not exceeded, often ends in death. And tolerance for Martin Kok was running out.

As a teenager living north of Amsterdam, Kok sold fish and later cocaine. He was nicknamed the Stutterer, for an affliction he would never quite overcome, and he went to prison multiple times—twice for killing acquaintances. After his release at the age of 47, Kok (pronounced “coke”) sought redemption through a keyboard: Holland is home to an active community of bloggers and online sleuths who detail the gritty trade of drug syndicates and killers for hire, and he started a crime blog of his own in February 2015.

He named his site Vlinderscrime, after the Dutch word for butterflies, and the blog had a healthy readership in the Dutch underworld. It became indispensable reading for civilians, too. In early December 2016 he posted a screenshot of a Google Analytics page claiming more than 4 million pageviews for the previous month. Banner ads (for law firms, spy shops, encrypted communication devices, flooring suppliers, and sex shops) sold for thousands of Euros, he once told local media. Respectable regional publications quoted Kok. Often.

He reported on Irish mob kingpins, Moroccan drug lords, assassination plots, biker gangs, and his frequent partying habits. Unlike mainstream Dutch media outlets, which only report a suspect’s first name and the first initial of the last name, he often published full names. Kok’s rejection of this journalistic convention made him a target of the people he covered. As did his relentless mocking of his subjects.

Someone tried to shoot him at his home in 2015, leaving his car perforated by bullets, and in 2016 he discovered an explosive under his vehicle. When a bomb squad descended, along with television news cameras, Kok reveled in the attention. In an interview with a journalist at the scene, Kok was amiable and charismatic, drunk on exposure as he stuttered through the interview. He called the explosive device a “bommeroni” to the delight of viewers who had come to know Kok and his exploits. “I’m on so many lists all I have to do is bow my head and they’ll kill each other” in the crossfire, he told the television reporter. Kok, a sturdy man with a heavy, creased face and eyes that nevertheless seemed eager to please, crowed to the camera: “Vlinderscrime is not going to quit. That’s where it happens!”

Five months after the car-bombing attempt, on a brisk December night, a security camera caught Kok leaving an Amsterdam hotel bar with another man. As the two walked along the sidewalk, the footage shows a third man running up behind Kok. He raises a pistol to within inches of the blogger’s nape. Then, suddenly, the gunman changes course and dashes into the street, narrowly avoiding some cyclists. Perhaps he changed his mind. A more likely explanation: The trigger plunged and the springs decompressed, but the striker failed to reach the pin and the weapon jammed—the slightest of tolerances offset.

Kok, his head turned toward his companion, seems unaware that he has cheated death again. He continues down the sidewalk, talking to his companion, never breaking his stride.

Martin Kok grew up in the town of Volendam, in a place of wooden windmills and cheese markets. As a teen, he and his father and brother sold eel at cafés in Amsterdam. He would wear the traditional Volendammer garb: red shirt, baggy black pants, and clogs. The work felt demeaning, and the patrons were condescending. He started selling eel in bars popular with well-known criminals. Kok moved on to the cocaine trade and quit his fishmonger job to work in smoky club coat rooms, which were good for meeting potential clients. It beat selling eels.

Kok was sardonic and charismatic—a class clown—but also tall, beefy, and imposing, with a streak of ruthlessness. He was as disarming as he was dangerous, like Yogi Bear with a handgun. According to a biography of him, in the summer of 1988, at the age of 21, he shot at an old schoolmate who had begun cutting into his business; several months later he got into a fight with a rival and smashed him in the head with a barstool. The man died a day later, and Kok went to prison for five years, a not-unheard-of sentence in a country with fairly lenient sentencing terms.

During that prison term, Kok met a man named Willem Holleeder, who was—and still is—Holland’s most infamous criminal. Holleeder was in prison for the 1983 kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken, and the caper remains unmatched in the annals of Dutch crime; a huge ransom was paid and Holleeder went on the run in France before being caught. In prison, Kok and Holleeder often ate lunch together, and Kok also befriended Cor van Hout, one of Holleeder’s accomplices in the Heineken kidnapping.

Martin in jail in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn in 2003, working on his prison ‘newspaper’ De Vlinder, which translates to “The Butterfly.”

Courtesy of Timo Van der Eng

Van Hout was a prankster among dour men. Everyone loved him. “You could laugh with Cor,” Kok once said. “Always joking, always happy. I accepted [Holleeder], but Cor was the real boss.”

When Kok got out, he murdered the boyfriend of a former romantic partner. In between sentences, he expanded his business into prostitution.

That line of work furnished him with a transferable skill for his next stint behind bars: Dutch prisons allow conjugal visits, and through a contact on the outside he hired women who would pose as prisoners’ girlfriends.

Kok in 2005 enjoying himself at a makeshift bar with other inmates in Veenhuizen prison. He leaked the photo to the press, and after publication, the backlash led to Kok getting beaten up.

Courtesy of Timo van der Eng

According to his biography, Kok eventually told a newspaper reporter about how he was providing a much-needed service to his friends. The warden placed Kok in solitary confinement for two weeks, but it was worthwhile for the attention he got. As he told Timo van der Eng, a journalist who interviewed him extensively for a book about his life titled Kokkie, “How awesome was that? When I exited the isolation chamber, the whole cell block was applauding me.”

Amsterdam has long been a trading center for substances and information. Frisia, as the region was known in the 17th century, was a hub of commerce and trade for seafaring entrepreneurs. Spices, yes. Coffee, of course. Tea, naturally. Hemp, too, was something of a cash crop. Harvested in the region around Utrecht, it was used by the Dutch East India Company to make ropes.

Information was another commodity in great demand. Shipping records were important: Who was entering the ports? Who was leaving? And from this utilitarian beginning sprang an industry. By mid-century, the Amsterdam presses made “books and newsletters that carry the facts around Europe, that sometimes give away secrets and sometimes cause scandals,” journalist Michael Pye wrote in his book The Edge of the World. Amsterdam was the newspaper capital of Europe during the 17th century.

By the 18th century, a liberal and prosperous city of canals and art and vast markets, Amsterdam developed a thriving criminal underground, or penose. It was the natural outcome for a wealthy city that greed would be inevitable. Among the notorious criminals who perpetuated this tradition were Van Hout and Holleeder.

The modern drug trade in Holland stretches across the globe, much like those old trade routes, and the country’s crime blogging sites track this busy industry. Today, Holland is a producer and consumer of synthetic drugs like ecstasy and the source for US-bound party drugs; the majority of drug offenses connected to heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines are related to possession. With the drug trade comes violence. While many fewer murders are committed in the Netherlands than in the United States (0.55 per 100,000 people, compared with 5.3 for every 100,000 in the US), people pay much more attention to them, fed by the salacious details on the crime sites.

“Criminals are humans, like you and me,” says Wim van de Pol, who co-owns and edits (with van der Eng) Crimesite, a 14-year-old website operated by veteran journalists and editors that gets nearly 4 million pageviews a month. “That’s what I like about crime reporting. It’s a study in human ambition and human struggle.”

The many crime blogs cover—with varying degrees of journalistic rigor—the activities of criminals and “liquidations,” or assassinations. False accusations are not unheard of. And even the official newspapers, which tend to be rigorous in their sourcing and circumspect about what they publish, sometimes lean on the less-scrupulous digital publications for stories.

Kok joined this fraternity of crime bloggers in 2015 after being released from prison, when he moved to Amsterdam and launched Vlinderscrime. It was easy enough: He was familiar with the crime blog scene, and he had many sources both free and incarcerated. He also wanted to be part of the story himself; a blog could be a conduit to fame. “I thought it would be fun to write about crime. I knew a lot about it, being a former criminal,” he told van der Eng, a former television journalist.

Kok was irreverent both online and off. His Twitter feed was a parade of women spliced with updates on crime busts. Then, say, a photo of him posing with Holleeder’s defense attorney followed by an image of Kok’s derriere during a massage (caption: “… I am so fresh and fruity”). He often wrote about his partying habits: “Your crime journalist has drunk too much and arrived home. That’s why crime will have to wait.”

Kok’s method was to talk to guys he’d known in prison, accept their chatter as fact, and publish a story, fast. He was willing to impugn people with little more than anonymous quotes. Then he’d send text messages to journalists alerting them to his scoop.

He was a bear poking other bears. In 2014, Holleeder was charged with ordering the assassinations of multiple people, including his kidnapping coconspirator van Hout. Kok, who was released from prison a few months later, used his media appearances to make fun of Holleeder. “Holleeder is a crybaby, and he can’t stand being in prison,” Kok said on a daily talk show. He mocked a reputed Dutch-Moroccan hit man who was arrested in Dublin, making fun of his many expensive watches and shoes. “People warned him. ‘Be careful—you are insulting people,’” van der Eng says. “He was insulting everyone, even Willem Holleeder, who was considered the biggest criminal in the Netherlands. He thought of himself as a crime reporter, a journalist. He was a shock blogger. It was without limits.”

Willem Holleeder and Cor van Hout (left) in the dock in 1987 before the start of the trial for the kidnapping of of beer tycoon Alfred Heineken. “The Nose,” as Holleeder is called, was the target of many digital and IRL pranks by Kok.

Peter Elenbaas/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux

Journalists enjoyed his company, and he enjoyed their validation. But it was dangerous to be too close to him; a bullet meant for Kok might stray. Journalists who met with him for dinner would not let him pay their bills, fearing that it would lead to discomfiting moral debts.

“He managed to get a lot of attention. He was successful at earning money without any more criminal activities. People liked him,” van der Eng told me. He loved his notoriety.

Despite his pleasure in taunting drug dealers and killers, he did eventually develop some instinct for self-preservation. “Before the bomb and the shooting, I welcomed everything and everyone, but I have become more careful,” he told van der Eng in 2016. He described getting a call from someone who wanted to give him information about an assassination. “It didn’t feel right, so I declined his invitation.”

His newfound instincts only went so far: At one point, Kok reportedly called the leader of a gang he had written about and dared them to come and find him. He gave the address of the house and hung up and waited. No one ever came, strengthening his illusion of invincibility.

On the night of December 8, 2016, after unwittingly surviving an assassination attempt on that Amsterdam sidewalk, Kok went to one of his favorite sex clubs, just outside Amsterdam. A photo shows him there, lounging on a bed in black underpants. A pink neon light glowing behind him, he gives a double thumbs up to the camera. He left the club around 11:20, and surveillance footage shows the lights on a Volkswagen Polo in the club parking lot wink to life as he walks out the door. Kok crosses over to the car and gets in.

From the bushes an assassin emerges. Maybe it’s the same gunman from earlier in the evening on the sidewalk. Maybe not. This time the gun doesn’t jam: The man fires into the driver’s side window and retreats.

Months after his funeral, on a February day overcast and spittly with rain, I visited his grave at the Vredenhof Cemetery, in an industrial part of Amsterdam. A caretaker directed me down a path toward the very back of the cemetery.

Taken inside the Boccaccio sex club, this is the last known photo of Kok alive. He was shot dead one hour after he sent this image to Timo van der Eng.

Courtesy of Timo van der Eng

Decorated with a headshot and butterflies, the grave marker was much smaller than those of the two men he is buried next to: Gijs Van Dam Jr., the son of a major distributor of hashish, and Kok’s friend Cor Van Hout.

Some journalists have tentatively tied Kok’s murder to the elusive criminal collective known as 26Koper (a “murder service on wheels,” according to one headline Kok wrote). Maybe they killed him. Maybe a hit was ordered by someone like the supposed hit man he had mocked. Plenty of people had reason to be mad at him.

Whoever killed him, no one in the crime blogging community was surprised. And Kok, his colleagues said, would have loved the attention. “There was one thing he was aiming for,” Vico Olling, a journalist at the Dutch magazine Panorama, tells me. “That was his death.”

Kok was buried next to Cor Van Hout and Gijs van Dam, Jr., the son of a hash dealer.

Kenneth R. Rosen

Even the Uber driver who gives me a ride from the graveyard back to Amsterdam has an opinion on who killed Martin Kok. “I know Martin,” the driver says. “He’s crazy. You hear about 26Koper? Guys my age. Hit men. You pay them, you give them pictures, they kill somebody. He wrote about those guys; those guys don’t like that.”

We drive along a narrow stretch of road, flanked by wetlands and fields. He claims 26Koper uses GPS trackers to monitor the movements of a subject before they kill him. He grows increasingly vague on the source of his information, which becomes a source of growing discomfort for me. “I don’t do anything. There are guys from my neighborhood. That’s it,” he says.

I suggest we eat lunch. A kibbeling stand on the side of the road—battered chunks of fish slathered in tartar sauce on a buttered roll. I am hungry and want to brace my driver for more about Kok and 26Koper, so we munch on our food quietly and make plans to meet later and drive to the sex club where Kok was killed. But back in my rented flat, I change my mind, recalling Kok’s own reconsideration of a meeting with someone he did not know.

In the months after Kok’s death, Dutch police hunted down leads on his killer, and in March Crimesite reported the arrest of a man identified as Zakaria A. (Another suspect was arrested a few weeks later.) Bloggers cranked into gear. Some of the crime blogs suggested that the hit might have been ordered by a Moroccan crime boss named Redouan Taghi, but most didn’t speculate on the motives.

The bigger news was the trial of Willem Holleeder. The charges of conspiring to murder van Hout and others were being heard in court when I was in Amsterdam, and his sister, who has written a tell-all about their childhood and Holleeder’s despotic behavior and misdeeds, was to testify against her brother. It was billed as the trial of the century.

A crowd of about 50 people jostled outside the courthouse, hoping for a glimpse of the defendant. Inside, Holleeder sat behind a clear security divider separating judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and the accused from the press and the public. It was just this sort of spectacle that Kok had cashed in on as a blogger.

Some journalists were inside the security divider, too. One of them was Paul Vugts, who writes for Het Parool, a daily newspaper. He was under police protection mainly because of his reporting on Moroccan criminals in Amsterdam, but he writes about a lot of vengeful people. He and his armed guards drove to the courthouse in two unmarked SUVs, like a criminal. Or a celebrity. Or both.

“Some criminals think I have too much information, too many good sources,” Vugts told me later. We were seated at a table in a discreet hotel bar. Sitting nearby, three mustachioed men wore puffy jackets, and I could see the protruding collar of a bullet-resistant vest. Vugts’s bodyguards, they would occasionally look our way. “They think I know more than the police,” he said of the underworld types he covers. Because of this, those criminals “want to kill me before I bring out the information.”

Reporting on crime is hazardous in Holland. In June, the offices of two prominent news outlets were attacked. A rocket was fired into the building that houses Panorama, possibly in connection with its reporting on a motorcycle gang, and a week later someone rammed a car into the entrance to Holland’s largest newspaper, De Telegraaf, and then lit the car on fire. There were no casualties, and the publications continued their coverage.

Kok was the unlucky one. His name is now synonymous with fame and misfortune, fearlessness and misinformation. And it’s a story that the killer turned writer could well have written himself. Kok’s only regret might have been that he wasn’t around to publish the name of the man who found him at the story’s end.

Which is surely what he would have done.


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Climate Change's Looming Mental Health Crisis

For the Inuit of Labrador in Canada, climate disaster has already arrived. These indigenous people form an intense bond with their land, hunting for food and fur. “People like to go out on the land to feel good,” says Noah Nochasak in the documentary Lament for the Land. “If they can’t go out on the land, travel a long ways to feel good, they don’t feel like people.”

The Inuit’s lands, though, are warming twice as fast as the global average, imperiling the ice they rely on to travel. In the fall, hunters tend to get stuck in the community, because ice hasn’t fully formed up—and again, in the spring, when things are melting. Climate change is making these ice transition periods even longer.

“During those times historically, there has been some increases in suicide or suicide attempts or ideation in the communities,” says Ashlee Cunsolo, a health geographer who has studied the region. “There is a lot of concern among the mental health practitioners. What does that mean if this time is lengthened from two weeks to eight weeks?”

It’s known as ecological grief—the mourning of ecosystems and species and ways of life that are disappearing as the planet warms. But it isn’t just hitting the Inuit. As our planet plays host to rising seas, more intense storms, and higher temperatures, those conditions will support a growing international mental health crisis.

“Things like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, domestic abuse, all these things tend to go up in the aftermath of a natural disasters,” says psychologist Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster, co-author of an extensive report on climate change and mental health. “As we have more natural disasters, one would expect to also have increases in those kinds of mental health consequences.”

Take Hurricane Katrina. In its aftermath, a sample of survivors found one in six met the criteria for PTSD. Rates of suicide and suicidal thoughts doubled. And especially in refugee situations, those mental health challenges can be intimately tied to physical health, compounding the harm. “When people are moving to places they bring diseases with them that the home population might not be immune to, and on the flip side these people are moving into places where they might not have immunity to the diseases in the new place,” says Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

Even those whose homes aren’t directly threatened by sea level rise or fiercer hurricanes aren’t immune. By the end of the century, the average American will have to endure four to eight times the number of 95+ degree days. Arizonans will get it particularly bad: Their number of 95+ degree days a year will leap from an average of 116 to over 200. And several studies have made a link between higher temperatures and higher rates of suicide.

One particularly data-intensive survey recently published in Nature Climate Change compiled temperatures and suicide statistics on the county level for the US, and municipality level for Mexico. They compared these granular regions not with each other, but with themselves—so the average monthly temperature in Palo Alto in July 2009 versus July 2010. This controlled for differences between locations in factors like poverty rates or gun ownership rates, both of which have been tied to suicide rates.

The uptick in suicide rates the researchers found may be small—a rise of 2 percent in Mexico and .7 percent in the US for every additional degree Celsius in average monthly temperature—and the relationship is far from simple. Rates of suicide fluctuate around the world, and where those suicide rates are highest, the temperature isn’t necessarily the highest. But extrapolated forward, the impact on public health could be devastating. “The fact that our results are so consistent across different socioeconomic strata, across different populations, suggests a common biological response,” says Stanford economist Marshall Burke, lead author of the study.

It’s unclear if scientists will unearth shared mechanisms behind the mental health effects of climate-related trauma. But the experience itself is obviously, intuitively human. When Cunsolo and a colleague published an essay in Nature Climate Change earlier this year on ecological grief, the email response they got was huge, and it was cosmopolitan.

“It wasn’t drought-affected farmers, it wasn’t low-lying island states, it wasn’t people who had been forced to relocate, it was people often living in urban settings would describe this overall sense of despair and anxiety,” says Cunsolo.

The root of our shared problem may be the same, but the manifestations of climate change can be wildly different. “Each region, each place, each culture, is going to experience something very, very different,” says Cunsolo. For the Inuit, it’s about ice. For the Southern US, it’s supercharged hurricanes. As with all health care, prevention is the best medicine. But in the case of climate change, we may be too late.


More Great WIRED Stories

'Earth Defense Force 5' Finally Comes Westward Later This Year

‘Earth Defense Force 5’ hits the PS4 later this year.Credit: D3 Publisher

</div> </div> <p>Released at the end of last year in Japan on the PlayStation 4, <a href="https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP3177-CUSA12535_00-EDF5MASTERPKG000" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP3177-CUSA12535_00-EDF5MASTERPKG000" rel="nofollow"><em data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP3177-CUSA12535_00-EDF5MASTERPKG000">Earth Defense Force 5</em></a> will be coming Westward later this year.</p> <p>Following on from <a href="https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP1023-CUSA03131_00-EARTHDEFFORCE4P1" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP1023-CUSA03131_00-EARTHDEFFORCE4P1" rel="nofollow"><em data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP1023-CUSA03131_00-EARTHDEFFORCE4P1">Earth Defense Force 4.1</em></a>, which I <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/games/2016/07/10/earth-defense-force-4-1-review-unfettered-alien-carnage/" target="_self" data-ga-track="InternalLink:https://www.forbes.com/sites/games/2016/07/10/earth-defense-force-4-1-review-unfettered-alien-carnage/">reviewed a while back</a>, the latest installment in the series has a marked increase in content and variety of enemies.</p> <p>The series itself started back on the PlayStation 2 in Japan as <em>The Chikyuu Boueigun</em> or&nbsp;simply translated as the <em>Earth Defense Force</em>.</p> <p>Developed by <a href="http://www.mechadamashii.com/features/features-an-ode-to-sandlot/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.mechadamashii.com/features/features-an-ode-to-sandlot/" rel="nofollow">Sandlot</a>, it was a budget title that re-used the studio’s engine technology from games such as <a href="http://www.mechadamashii.com/reviews/reviews-gigantic-drive-810/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.mechadamashii.com/reviews/reviews-gigantic-drive-810/" rel="nofollow"><em data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.mechadamashii.com/reviews/reviews-gigantic-drive-810/">Gigantic Drive</em></a>.</p> <p> </p> <p>Due to its technical origins, the <em>Earth Defense Force</em> games had a big focus on taking on huge enemies from the vantage point of a regular guy on the ground.</p> <p>Over the years, the games have built on this premise further and introduced new types of playable characters with differing abilities, as well as an increased array of outlandish vehicles.</p> <p>However, for many, the <em>Earth Defense Force</em> games are renowned for having the player take on thousands of giant insects and aliens (shown above) with an almost endless array of excessive weaponry.</p>

<p>I have been a <a href="http://www.mechadamashii.com/features/features-an-ode-to-sandlot/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.mechadamashii.com/features/features-an-ode-to-sandlot/" rel="nofollow">big fan of these games since the originals</a> and I have had a lot of fun playing each new release when they come out.</p> <p>Last year I worked my way through the Japanese version of <em>Earth Defense Force 5</em>, so I am happy that I will get to do that all over again once it comes Westward on the PlayStation 4 later this year.</p>

<p><em>Follow me on <a href="https://twitter.com/Cacophanus/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/Cacophanus/" rel="nofollow">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cacophanus" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.facebook.com/cacophanus" rel="nofollow">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/Cacophanus" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.youtube.com/user/Cacophanus" rel="nofollow">YouTube</a>. I also manage <a href="http://www.mechadamashii.com" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.mechadamashii.com" rel="nofollow">Mecha Damashii</a> and do toy reviews over at <a href="http://www.hobbylink.tv/members/ollie/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.hobbylink.tv/members/ollie/" rel="nofollow">hobbylink.tv</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Read my Forbes blog <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/" target="_self" data-ga-track="InternalLink:http://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/">here</a>.</em></p>” readability=”42.7188264059″>

‘Earth Defense Force 5’ hits the PS4 later this year.Credit: D3 Publisher

Released at the end of last year in Japan on the PlayStation 4, Earth Defense Force 5 will be coming Westward later this year.

Following on from Earth Defense Force 4.1, which I reviewed a while back, the latest installment in the series has a marked increase in content and variety of enemies.

The series itself started back on the PlayStation 2 in Japan as The Chikyuu Boueigun or simply translated as the Earth Defense Force.

Developed by Sandlot, it was a budget title that re-used the studio’s engine technology from games such as Gigantic Drive.

Due to its technical origins, the Earth Defense Force games had a big focus on taking on huge enemies from the vantage point of a regular guy on the ground.

Over the years, the games have built on this premise further and introduced new types of playable characters with differing abilities, as well as an increased array of outlandish vehicles.

However, for many, the Earth Defense Force games are renowned for having the player take on thousands of giant insects and aliens (shown above) with an almost endless array of excessive weaponry.

I have been a big fan of these games since the originals and I have had a lot of fun playing each new release when they come out.

Last year I worked my way through the Japanese version of Earth Defense Force 5, so I am happy that I will get to do that all over again once it comes Westward on the PlayStation 4 later this year.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I also manage Mecha Damashii and do toy reviews over at hobbylink.tv.

Read my Forbes blog here.

I cover gaming in Japan as well the pop-culture here. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or check out my YouTube videos. I also founded and continue to manage the mecha gaming site, Mecha Damashii. I have over a decade’s worth of games industry experience, having worked…

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China to probe e-commerce firm Pinduoduo over reports of fake goods

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese regulators are investigating Pinduoduo Inc after media reports of third-party vendors selling counterfeit goods on its group-discounting marketplace, a move analysts said is likely to further batter the firm’s newly listed shares.

FILE PHOTO: A display at the Nasdaq Market Site shows a message after Chinese online group discounter Pinduoduo Inc. (PDD) was listed on the Nasdaq exchange in Times Square in New York City, New York, U.S., July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The probe comes just days after the Shanghai-based startup raised $1.63 billion in the year’s second-biggest U.S. listing by a Chinese firm, which valued Pinduoduo at $23.8 billion.

The State Administration for Market Regulation said on its website that it will interview staff at the three-year-old firm and deal seriously with any illegal practices, such as the failure to remove listings featuring counterfeit goods.

Pinduoduo, in a statement on online news portal Netease, said it was working hard to crack down on counterfeits. The company did not respond when contacted by Reuters for comment.

“We did a lot of work but are still far from meeting society’s expectations,” Pinduoduo said in the statement.

Beijing-based tech analyst Li Chengdong said the probe would likely impact investor expectations of Pinduoduo, whose shares have fallen roughly 14 percent since their July 27 debut.

“It’s normal to see a fast-growing startup having compliance issues,” Li said. “Essentially, it comes down regulation on quality management.”

“SHANZAI”

Pinduoduo said it has 300 million active buyers and reaches a consumer group living outside China’s megacities. Its massive IPO saw it ranked alongside other Chinese e-commerce giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com Inc.

The publicity around the IPO, however, saw the firm become the subject of media reports and butt of online jokes centred on goods on its marketplace resembling products from firms such as Coca-Cola Co, Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Many jokes described such goods using the phrase “shanzai”, a term often used to refer to look-alike products featuring purposely misspelled names of big brands.

On Tuesday, state-backed Beijing News said Pinduoduo removed listings for television brand “Xiaomi New Product”, which is unrelated to Chinese smart gadget maker Xiaomi Corp.

Last week, Chinese TV maker Skyworth Digital Holdings Ltd issued a statement asking Pinduoduo to stop sales of counterfeit Skyworth products on its site.

Fiction writer Zheng Yuanjie said on his microblog account that pirated versions of his books were sold on Pinduoduo.

In the United States, a diaper maker has filed a complaint with a federal court, claiming Pinduoduo knowingly allowed the sale of counterfeit products bearing the company’s name on its site, according to lawyers representing the diaper company.

It was not immediately clear whether Pinduoduo has responded to individual allegations. On Tuesday, Beijing News cited Pinduoduo as saying it was being attacked and that it was unfair to blame the firm for counterfeits.

Alibaba has also been fighting an anti-counterfeit campaign amid criticism from companies and consumer groups that fake products are being sold on its online marketplaces.

In January, the U.S. Trade Representative put Alibaba’s Taobao platform on its blacklist for the second consecutive year over suspected counterfeits, a move the e-commerce firm said did not reflect its efforts to protect intellectual property.

Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christopher Cushing

Inside The Incredible World Of A Virtual Mogul-In-The-Making

Noonoouri rocking Dior in bedCourtesy Joerg Zuber

Okay, so even a Forbes contributor who is a super emerging tech enthusiast cannot possible keep up with every single new tech development on the scene. That’s why I’m glad a particular media junkie and entertainment blogger, just happened to send me a DM on IG recently asking me if I knew about a virtual personality that was blowing up on IG and actually creating business deals for herself. I did not but started to investigate and discovered quite an edgy proposition.

If you haven’t heard about @noonoouri, you will more and more as this is the start of a very intriguing new level of tech usage in consumerism that will breed copycats and wannabees while the original turns the business world on its ear.

Picture a quasi-AI vision meets social media prowess mixed with haute couture and integrity and you’ve got this intriguing new vibe in social media influence known as Noonoouri, a virtual persona who is gaining such a fanbase that brands from Dior to KKW are lining up to work with her and tap into consumers in a completely new way. It’s a fun and evocative but an extremely tech-intensive effort behind-the-scenes.

While Australian Vogue did what seems to be her first print interview, I decided to talk to Noonoouri’s dad-of-sorts, a boundless creative-tech mind named Joerg Zuber who is based in Munich, Germany (though of course, Noonoouri lives, where else but the heart of Paris,France) and seems to have worked with everybody from Lady Gaga to top notables in fashion, but flies just a bit under the radar:

Lauren deLisa Coleman:  So Joergz, what is your general background and how did you get the idea for this concept on Instagram?

Joerg ZuberCourtesy Joerg Zuber

Joergz Zuber: My addiction to fashion and beauty started when I was 5 years old. My first magazine was a Vogue. I lived in this world from that moment. I designed and drew fashion (illustrations) as a little boy. This later led to work as a graphic designer.  After this, I founded my studio.

I have a huge respect for big brands and fashion houses. I breathe this heritage whenever I get in contact with them. I feel so sad when I see unmotivated shots of a “boy” Chanel bag next to another cafe latte. The name “boy” of this bag has a story. I wanted to invite young people to look more behind products, brands and history but in a very playful and entertaining way. So Noonoouri was born with the core values I call triple-C:

– cute – anything I create has to have some kind of cuteness

– curious  – she is curious and wants to know anything

– couture – referring more to the quality in every post

LdC:  How did you start to gain the attention of the fashion crowd on IG? Was there a particular strategy you used?

JZ: I listen always to my heart, my feelings, my emotions. I am not numbers driven. I am dedicated to creating things that inspire and sometimes transport us to another world. I love to dream. One of my first big supporters was (fashion industry notable) Carine Roitfeld.  She and I spoke over a coffee at the Plaza Athenée in Paris at the table where Christian Dior used to have lunch. It was clear from that conversation that Noonoouri would not become just another cartoon. She would have truth depth, emotion and savvy in the fashion world. She would become a leader.

LdC:  You’ve said that it took you seven years to actually develop and bring Noonoouri to life. Now you are beginning to attract the attention of brands such as Kim Kardashian West’s KKW to work with your if you don’t mind me calling her,  sentient being. What has that been like?

JZ: Actually I did the spot first, and Kim posted on her account. I was watching Kim’s makeup tutorials and thought this would be great to use on a digital character. This way I could show Noonoouri in motion totally without makeup, pure and natural. Kim texted me after she saw it and truly loved it. I met her a couple of weeks ago for the first time, and the rest is history. Actually, Kim Kardashian and Naomi Campbell are my main muses when I created Noonoouri.

LdC: So how do you create Noonouri, from a tech aspect, and get the images of the virtual person with the real person in as we see in certain posts and video?

JZ: I actually did a motion capture shooting in the very beginning before I gave life to Noonoouri. I wanted to have natural movements later paired and adjusted by the computer. During a shoot, the real person has to use the imagination of Noonoouri which is not so difficult when I am around.  Later we substitute the character (somewhat similar to the character Gollum in “Lord Of The Rings”). We pay a lot of attention to light sources,  wrinkles as they reflect the surrounding light. Is the skin shiny or matte?  Is there a soft wind inside the hair or is it flat? To adopt this in CGI is often super hard, but the result is my reward.

LdC: So, what are your thoughts about the future of virtual influencers and such things as sentient rights, which are already being discussed in Asia.

Noonoouri in VersaceCourtesy Joergz Zuber

JZ: I clearly believe that nothing can replace a real hand, a true eye to eye moment, the real heartbeat of a person. I am human and I love humans, nature and animals. But I do think there is a nice coexistence of humans and digital characters. Noonoouri represents what fashion is: fun, unexpected, quality driven, inspirational, no fear approach. But she needs human beings. She has no voice yet, she is only 1.5 inches tall. She cannot do a selfie of Kim Kardashian together with her because her arms are too short. I took all those things into account to make her clearly dependent on humans, she is always much more powerful with a human being rather than alone.

LdC: Do you see this character taking on a true personality through Artificial Intelligence at some point?

JZ: AI for me is something we should take advantage of rather than being afraid of. I am fearless. I embrace life and what happens.

LdC: What have been some of the business models that you have developed with Dior and KKW? Noonoouri seems to be the face of the latter brand, at present. How does it work, specifically?

JZ: At the moment Noonoouri costs me a lot. She is now slowly beginning to earn money.  Having amazing souls as friends like Carine, Naomi Campbell, Marc Jacobs, Giambattista Valli, and many more are also very helpful.

One still post takes between two-three days. Animation like for the KKW content takes us up to four-eight weeks, and this is with several people working on it. We set up highlights, we investigate, we rethink, layout, change, select her style as well as compose all music by ourselves. I even invented her handwriting to make this character authentic. We bring all this to the brand to promote a certain product, image and/or message.

For me  it is very important that Noonoouri is a non-fear approach. I do not call her an avatar because she is so much more than that. She needs humans, and she has a big social heart for the voiceless, especially children and animals. Quite simply, Noonoouri connects.

Why These Contractors Had To Help Apple Cut Air Pollution In China

Visitors and buyers at the Apple store in Macau, China, on July 18, 2018. Apple is under pressure to treat workers, and the air, well in China. (Photo by S3studio/Getty Images)

China is clearly keen to stop the smog. State media just reported on Monday that Beijing will close down about 1,000 manufacturers by 2020 as part of its campaign toward curbing air pollution and boosting income in other regions.

The announcement follows Apple’s recent move to introduce a clean energy fund in China that’s aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy across it supply chain. The tech giant’s efforts to help the environment will no doubt be seen favourably by policymakers and consumers in the country where its contractors assemble so many iPhones and iPads.

So far, 10 Apple suppliers have shown their commitment to the company’s China Clean Energy Fund by co-investing, and that includes four Taiwan heavyweights: contract supplier Catcher Technology and device manufacturers Compal Electronics, Pegatron and  Wistron.

Analysts say that some of those contractors probably felt they had to join Apple’s fund to avoid the risk of being seen as unsupportive of a major client and China’s wider clean air ambitions.

“For the manufacturers, their concern is mostly future business from Apple,” says Lions Shih, research manager with Taipei-based market research firm EnergyTrend. “They join the fund to remain suppliers and partners of Apple on the one hand and show their contribution to environment as part of corporate social responsibility on the other hand.”

Growing pressure to help China

Apple held a 13% China market share in the first quarter of 2018, behind the Chinese firms Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, according to data from the research firm Counterpoint. Apple’s sales face potential headwinds as recent Sino-U.S. trade friction has likely soured many Chinese consumers’ perceptions of the American electronics brand, according to research and consulting firm Kapronasia. This month, Washington approved import tariffs of 25% approved this month on 800 Chinese goods. Apple also came under scrutiny from 2010 to 2012, when its Taiwanese assembler Foxconn Technology saw several workers commit suicide at its sprawling China plants and later faced labor protests at others.

Apple made the clean-air commitment clear in April. CEO Tim Cook said that Apple would “keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers,” Cook said then, as cited in this company statement.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, photographed on July 12, 2018. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Apple has promised to use renewable energy in its global operating facilities earlier this year, so it seems like the next logical step to expand the use of renewable energy to its manufacturing facilities,” Shih says.

More on Forbes: Apple To Drop Qualcomm Modems From Next iPhones For Intel, Samsung Wireless Chips

The clean energy fund announced by Apple on July 12 complements its 3-year-old Supplier Clean Energy Program. The 23 suppliers in this program should make Apple gear with “100 per cent clean energy,” Apple says in a statement. Money from the new fund will go toward developing one gigawatt worth of renewable energy in China, the statement says.

“If you do business with (Apple), then you’d better cooperate,” says Tracy Tsai, research VP with tech market analysis firm Gartner in Taipei. “You are clients, so you must go along and protect relations.”

Bottom line consideration

Pegatron joined Apple’s fund because clean energy is a “trend” that has sparked growing “awareness” among consumers of electronics, a company media liaison said for this post. Apple also happens to be “a rather important client,” the liaison said. The 11-year-old firm participates in Apple’s Supplier Clean Energy Program, as well.

The Taipei-based manufacturer won’t disclose how much business it gets from Apple or discuss the financial importance of joining Apple’s clean-energy campaign in China. Contractors seldom give details of their work with Apple. “Apple’s revenue contribution to contractors is guarded pretty heavily,” says Jason Barry, data analyst with research firm Gap Intelligence in the United States.

A man walks past the gates of Pegatron, an Apple manufacturer, in China. Pegatron stopped recruitment three years ago in China due to a fall in iPhone orders, local media reported. (VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Taiwanese contractors need to take China seriously also because Taiwan lacks a “coherent” policy to give them chances to prosper at home, says Liang Kuo-yuan, president of Taipei-based think tank Polaris Research Institute in Taipei.

Assemblers and suppliers were expected to grow their business last year on orders for the iPhones 8 and X. Pegatron reported 2017 operating revenue of NT$1.19 trillion ($38.9 billion), up from NT$1.16 trillion in 2016. Profits came to NT$16 billion, down from NT$22 billion a year before. Fellow assembler Wistron posted net income of NT$4.4 billion last year, up from $3 billion in 2016 following its own increase in revenue.

Apple clean energy fund partners outside Taiwan include Corning, Golden Arrow, Jabil, Luxshare-ICT, Solvay and Sunway Communication.