• Remember when Silicon Valley giants were once seen as enablers of positive change? Now, a growing number of observers fear that the corporations’ power to decide who gets a digital megaphone is becoming a risk to democracy.
“People are realizing that technology isn’t neutral,” said the chief executive of an internet security company that withdrew its hacking protection from a neo-Nazi site earlier this year. “I used to travel to Europe to hear these fears. Now I just have to go to Sacramento.”
Amid this backlash, Google is the latest tech giant to go on a charm offensive, committing to donate $1 billion to help prepare workers for the digital economy.
• Austria appears poised to shift to the right in a snap parliamentary election on Sunday. The center-right People’s Party led by Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old foreign minister, above, is ahead in polls. He could form a new government with the far-right Freedom Party.
In the Magazine, we visited Götz Kubitschek, a leading intellectual of Germany’s resurgent nationalists. He sees himself as battling to preserve the country’s “ethno-cultural identity,” which he says is threatened by immigration and the alienating effects of modernity.
• Who is family to you?
A dog owner in Rome was given two days of paid leave to bring her ailing English setter, above, to a veterinarian for surgery.
Pet advocacy groups in Italy hope that the achievement could pave the way for similar claims in the future. A few companies in the U.S. and elsewhere have already made paid leave for pet owners part of their benefits programs.
• An American withdrawal from Nafta could give European companies an edge over American competitors in Mexico and Canada. Here’s a look at the possible consequences of a U.S. departure.
• Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is investing in high-speed hyperloop transit, in hopes of rolling out its levitating pods by 2021.
• New York City, London and Zurich are among the expensive cities to live in, based on the average rental cost.
• Here’s a snapshot of global markets.
In the News
• The police in London and New York are looking into sexual assault complaints involving the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, pointing to the breadth of the legal challenges he could face. [The New York Times]
• Negotiations over Britain’s departure from the European Union have hit an “impasse,” said Michel Barnier, the E.U.’s representative. [Politico]
• An American woman and her Canadian husband who were held hostage by militants in Afghanistan for five years have been freed, along with their young children. [The New York Times]
• America’s opioid epidemic isn’t limited to rural and suburban areas — it’s ravaging New York City, and the Bronx in particular. [The New York Times]
• The worst wildfires to tear through California in nearly a century show no sign of letting up. The death toll has risen to 31. [The New York Times]
• A campaign against same-sex marriage in Romania got a special visitor: Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who had been briefly jailed over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. [The New York Times]
• The Swiss authorities accused Nasser al-Khelaifi, the Qatari chairman of the Paris St.-Germain soccer team, of bribing the former FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke in return for World Cup broadcast contracts. [The New York Times]
• Parts of Western Europe can expect fierce rains and winds next week, as Hurricane Ophelia moves toward the Azores, Ireland and Scotland. [Bloomberg]
Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.
• Our wine critic debunked five common myths that need to be put to rest, including fixations on fine vintages.
• Recipe of the day: Get ambitious over the weekend with a classic coconut cake.
• What’s the best approach to negotiating your salary? Be straightforward.
• The scholarly Danish town of Aarhus is brimming with cozy restaurants and excellent craft beer. Here’s our 36 Hours guide.
• The discovery of gene variants responsible for much human skin tone is another crack in old ideas of “race.”
• Sally Potter’s new film “The Party” is about a disastrous gathering of friends in Britain. It shows what the director calls “a microcosm of a whole nation in a great political crisis.”
• Ahead of this year’s first soccer derby in Milan, our soccer correspondent reflects on the challenges the two Chinese-owned teams face before they can return to the heights of their golden era.
• Aged 105, Baron Eduard von Falz-Fein agreed to tell — for the last time, he insisted — his life story, which included bringing Olympic sports to the principality of Liechtenstein.
• Martha Stewart, the cookbook author, shared what she can’t travel without, including her own chicken’s hard-boiled eggs.
On this day in 1884, delegates from 25 nations, who were gathered in Washington, voted on what the time was.
With 22 votes for, one against (San Domingo) and two abstentions (France and Brazil), the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, became the site of the prime meridian, the longitude separating Earth’s eastern and western hemispheres.
In the debate to standardize time around the world, France favored a site on neutral ground, like the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean or the Bering Strait.
But business won the day. A majority of the world’s shipping at the time and the railroads heading to the Pacific Coast in the U.S. were already using Greenwich meridian, so the Royal Observatory was the obvious choice.
The observatory enforced such structure on the world that it became a target for anarchists, including one in 1894 who sought to blow it up. He succeeded in killing only himself.
More than a century later, GPS-equipped visitors to Greenwich will find, however, that they’re not standing at zero degrees longitude. In the 1980s, new satellite data helped reorient the prime meridian 334 feet to the east of the original line, where it now runs through a park.
Thomas Furse contributed reporting.
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