Credit…Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Monday, a judge in the U.S. District Court of Northern California heard arguments about whether to grant Epic Games, the creator of the wildly popular video game Fortnite, a restraining order against Apple. Epic sought the order last week after Apple cut off its support for an Epic software development tool, Unreal Engine, an action that Tim Sweeney, chief executive of Epic, called an “existential threat” to Epic’s $17 billion business.

At root are the fees Apple and Google charge app developers to sell apps in their marketplaces — a 30 percent cut. This month, Epic started encouraging Fortnite’s mobile-app users to pay it directly, rather than through Apple or Google. That violated Apple’s and Google’s rules that they handle all such app payments so they can collect their commission.

In response, Apple banned Fortnite from its store; Google later did the same. Epic was ready. It rallied its fans around the hashtag #FreeFortnite and published a video satirizing Apple’s famous “1984” ad, which had portrayed Apple as the underdog. The parody included a villain wearing the same sunglasses as Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook.

In an interview last month, Mr. Sweeney said the stakes of the antitrust investigations into tech giants like Apple and Google were no smaller than the future of humanity. “Otherwise you have these corporations who control all commerce and all speech,” he said.

Mr. Sweeney said that he had discovered that the fees from the app stores meant that Apple and Google could sometimes make more money on a game than its creators.

“That’s totally unjust,” he said. “That shows the market is out of control.”

Credit…Monica Jorge for The New York Times

Black homeowners say their homes are consistently appraised for less than those of their neighbors, stymying their path toward building equity and further perpetuating income equality in the United States, reports Debra Kamin:

Home appraisers, who work under codes of ethics but with little regulation and oversight, are often all that stands between the accumulation of home equity and the destruction of it for Black Americans.

After the first appraisal came up short on his house in an affluent, racially mixed suburb of Hartford, Conn., Stephen Richmond, an aerospace engineer, took down family photos and posters for Black movies and had a white neighbor stand in for him on a second appraisal. He was hoping to refinance; with the second report, he saw his home’s value go up $40,000 from the initial appraisal just a few weeks earlier.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, a federal ruling issued in March allowed appraisals for homes that were being sold to be done remotely in certain circumstances, temporarily pausing the need for interior home inspections. Those looking to refinance, however, still must complete an in-person appraisal.

In 2018, researchers from Gallup and the Brookings Institution published a report on the widespread devaluation of Black-owned property in the United States, which they discussed in a 2019 hearing before the House Financial Services Subcommittee. The report found that a home in a majority Black neighborhood is likely to be valued for 23 percent less than a near-identical home in a majority-white neighborhood; it also determined this devaluation costs Black homeowners $156 billion in cumulative losses.

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