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Tuesday, September 22, 2020
President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s given his “blessing” to a proposed deal that would see the popular video-sharing app TikTok partner with Oracle and Walmart and form a U.S. company. Trump has targeted Chinese-owned TikTok for national security and data privacy concerns in the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. president’s support for a deal comes just a day after the Commerce Department announced restrictions that if put in place could eventually make it nearly impossible for TikTok’s legions of younger fans to use the app. Trump said if completed the deal would create a new company likely to be based in Texas. “I have given the deal my blessing,” he said. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too.” Trump said the new company will be hiring at least 25,000 people and making a $5 billion contribution to a fund dedicated to education for Americans. “That’s their contribution that I’ve been asking for,” he said. TikTok said Oracle and Walmart could acquire up to a cumulative 20% stake in the new company in a financing round to be held before an initial public offering of stock, which Walmart said could happen within the next year. Oracle’s stake would be 12.5%, and Walmart’s would be 7.5%, the companies said in separate statements. The deal will make Oracle responsible for hosting all TikTok’s U.S. user data and securing computer systems to ensure U.S. national security requirements are satisfied. Walmart said it will provide its eCommerce, fulfillment, payments and other services to the new company. “We are pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the U.S. administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the U.S.,” TikTok said in a statement. Trump has been demanding that the U.S. operations of TikTok be sold to a U.S. company or else be shut down. He’s also been targeting WeChat, another Chinese-owned app. The administration contends that the user data collected by the two apps could be shared with the Chinese government. On Saturday, Trump said the U.S.-based TikTok “will have nothing to do with China.” TikTok says it has 100 million U.S. users. On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would bar TikTok from U.S. app stores as of late Sunday. Further restrictions that would prevent TikTok from accessing essential internet services in the country would go into effect on Nov. 12. Commerce said Saturday that it will delay the barring of TikTok from U.S. app stores until Sept. 27 at 11:59 p.m. Commerce is imposing similar restrictions on WeChat, although all of the restrictions on that app are set to go into effect Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. Earlier Saturday, WeChat users asked a U.S. judge to block the government’s actions, saying they would restrict free speech. WeChat is an all-in-one app with instant messaging, social media and other communication tools. The U.S. government argued that it is not restricting free speech because WeChat users still “are free to speak on alternative platforms that do not pose a national security threat.” U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler asked lawyers for the government and WeChat users whether the prohibitions would cripple WeChat as soon as the clock ticked from Sunday night into Monday morning without a resolution. An attorney for the government said they would likely lead to a “degradation” of WeChat over time. Judge Beeler did not rule immediately on the motion. WeChat has millions of U.S. users who rely on the app to stay in touch and conduct business with people and companies in China and around the world. In court filings, the founder of the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities, who is a U.S. citizen in California, said that the group’s primary tool to reach out and provide services to Chinese Americans is WeChat. “Since many of the Chinese community members we serve are not fluent in English, WeChat is the only online tool that they rely on,” Elaine Peng said. The Trump administration’s aggressive tactics are part of its latest attempt to counter the influence of China, a rising economic superpower. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment. China-backed hackers, meanwhile, have been blamed for data breaches of U.S. federal databases and the credit agency Equifax, and the Chinese government strictly limits what U.S. tech companies can do in China. China’s ministry of commerce condemned the U.S. moves and urged it to stop what it called bullying behavior. It also said China may take “necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies. The U.S. Treasury Department said Saturday that TikTok’s deal still needs to close with Oracle and Walmart, and it also needs documentation and conditions to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. That, of course, also leaves the potential for more roller coasters of emotion for TikTok users, such as Haley Hoffman Smith, a 24-year-old who moved to Manhattan this year to pursue her dream of becoming a talk-show host. She said she had just hit 100,000 followers on TikTok and was crushed on Friday to hear it may be headed for a shutdown. “TikTok is an inextricable part of my dream chasing story,” she said, “and to lose it forever would not only be an inconvenient setback but an absolute heartbreak.”
The preceding ASX announcements about its customer contracts are the subject of an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) action against Getswift and its founders, former AFL footballer Joel Macdonald and Bane Hunter, as well as the class action. Mr Macdonald and Mr Hunter face corporate bans in Australia if the ASIC action is successful. The company has retained the support of its major shareholders despite the legal battles, and US investor Charles Frischer was sympathetic to the company’s need to leave the ASX despite the share rout which has shed half its market value since August to a low of 38¢ last week. “The regulator in Australia (ASIC) absolutely has to share in the blame for Getswift leaving the country. This is not a great day for Getswift or Australia,” Mr Frischer said. "Australian shareholders are now confused about the future of the company and are now selling their shares at very low prices in my opinion because they can’t or don’t understand that they can continue to own shares of Getswift, even if they move to the NEO exchange in Canada." The big issue for Getswift is that, despite the extraordinary revenue growth it is still burning
China issued a swift retaliation in response to a looming ban on US downloads of the Chinese owned apps TikTok and WeChat. On Saturday the country’s Ministry of Commerce announced regulations for its “unreliable entity” list, which target foreign companies they say compromise their national security.  Any company that gets added to the list can face a raft of hurdles and restrictions in the country including fines and restrictions on employees. The news came just one day after the US Commerce Department issued an order saying they would bar Google and Apple from carrying TikTok and WeChat in the US. The move will not affect existing customers of either platform but will prevent them from receiving updates. A fire-sale deal to allow Microsoft to assume control of US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand operations fell through last week. TikTok parent company ByteDance filed an 11th-hour motion in a federal court in Washington to attempt to stay the looming ban. China has also protested vigorously against the US move, accusing the country of bullying behavior. China’s Commerce Ministry previously warned they would “take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.” TikTok is wildly popular in the United States with roughly 100 million active users. This has raised concerns among intelligence officials and the Trump administration over the potential of user data falling into the hands of the Chinese government. With Post wires  
How long have you been doing this job and what first sparked your interest in this area? I became a teacher 25 years ago. I always loved to learn and still love learning new things. Like so many others who find themselves in education, I was inspired by a number of amazing teachers when I was in high school. I never wanted to be in a job that would have me sitting or standing at a counter all day. Having said that I find myself sitting at my desk an awful lot these days but at least my office has a revolving door with plenty of different people coming and going. What do you like most about the job? One of the aspects of the job that I enjoy is the social nature of the job that has a primary focus on helping others. I like the unpredictability and constant change; you can never claim to be bored as a principal. Education is such a great place to be, it is wonderful interacting on a regular basis with so many bright young people and the staff both teaching and non-teaching are of the highest calibre. What was the most
Many older workers will likely choose to upskill or retrain during the downturn. Education is a smart choice with the labour market so tight and travel restricted. Loading The spike in demand for post-school education is a national opportunity. Australia can use the pandemic to invest in our collective know-how. A more educated young workforce will help drive the recovery from the coronavirus recession. So this should be a moment for Australia’s world-class universities to shine. Instead, the sector is in crisis. The National Tertiary Education Union says more than 11,000 university jobs have been lost this year and more staff reductions are anticipated. Some institutions have slashed the number of courses available to students in a bid to save money. The job losses and reduced course offerings mean a lower quality of tertiary education for young Australians. Many university students already complain about overcrowded tutorials and limited contact with academic staff. University leaders say they’ve had no choice but to make cuts. They seem preoccupied with the decline in international student numbers due to COVID-19 border restrictions and the effect that has had on balance sheets. Loading The federal government, which funds universities, has added to
Time is ticking away for the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok, which filed an 11th-hour complaint to a Washington federal court in an attempt to stay a looming US ban from the Trump administration. TikTok and parent company ByteDance say they are being targeted for political reasons and efforts to keep them off US phones is a violation of their first amendment rights, Reuters reported. After weeks of rumor and speculation, the Commerce Department Friday issued an order that will block further downloads of the service from Google and Apple app stores. The order will also apply to the Chinese messenger service WeChat. The order won’t affect people who already have the apps downloaded on their phones, but it will prevent users from receiving updates. TikTok has roughly 100 million active users in the United States and has raised eyebrows among US officials who worry about user data falling into the hands of the Chinese government. A compromise deal to allow Microsoft to purchase TikTok’s platforms in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand later fell through when the companies could not agree to terms. “ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” the company said in a statement last week.
Six alleged fraudsters have been indicted by a grand jury in Washington state over a scheme to bribe Amazon employees in hopes of a competitive business edge, the Justice Department announced Friday. The defendants planned to pay over $100,000 in exchange for an unfair advantage on the Amazon marketplace, where third-party merchants sell goods, officials said. Since 2017, the individuals allegedly resorted to bribery and fraud to reinstate products and accounts that Amazon had suspended or blocked from its marketplace. The accused allegedly paid at least ten Amazon employees and contractors to attack competitors and boost their products — raking in more than $100 million of competitive benefits, according to prosecutors “The ultimate victim from this criminal conduct is the buying public who get inferior or even dangerous goods that should have been removed from the marketplace,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in a statement. The indicted include three New Yorkers: Ephraim Rosenberg, 45, of Brooklyn and Joseph Nilsen,31 and Kristen Leccese, 32, of Manhattan. Others involved in the scheme include Hadis Nuhanovic, 30, of Acworth, Georgia; Rohit Kadimisetty, 27, of Northridge, California; and Nishad Kunju, 31, of Hyderabad, India, according to the indictment. Kunju allegedly worked as an Amazon seller-support associate, before transitioning to an outside consultant position who recruited and paid bribes to his former coworkers. An Amazon spokesman said the company worked with the Justice Department on the case and works to track suspicious behavior by sellers and employees. “We are especially disappointed by the actions of this limited group of now-former employees, and appreciate the collaboration and support from law enforcement to bring them and the bad actors they were entwined with to justice,” the spokesman said. The company’s third-party marketplace has come under heavy scrutiny from lawmakers and regulatory agencies looking at Amazon’s business practices on the platform and whether it hurts small sellers. With Post Wires
US Senator Richard Blumenthal on Friday called on AT&T to stop pursuing plans to offer cellphone plans partially subsidized by advertising that he said would undermine consumer privacy. “Consumers expect that their phone and broadband providers are not spying on their phone calls and web browsing or using their private data for commercial gain,” Blumenthal, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey. The request follows a Reuters interview with Stankey this week in which he discussed a plan to discount cellphone bills as early as a year from now. “I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey said in the interview. While Stankey said AT&T was not yet announcing a new product available to consumers, he discussed how the company was building toward such an offer as it doubles down on the advertising business. Stankey said the company’s engineers were working on how “unified customer identifiers” could help tie together data sets across its portfolio that could help it better target advertising to consumers in the future. AT&T said in a statement it had received Blumenthal’s letter and will respond. The company is hoping to breathe new life in a concept that has not caught on in the past. Although various tech and telecoms companies have offered to discount or offer free mobile services in return for viewing advertising, AT&T is hoping that better user targeting technology would make its version of a service more palatable. Blumenthal requested a response by Oct. 18 to a list of questions that included the timing of a launch of the proposed product and whether the data would include phone or internet records.
NBCUniversal is quietly looking to replace top reality-TV exec who was accused of cultivating a toxic workplace in a bombshell report in late July, The Post has learned. The takedown penned by The Hollywood Reporter called out NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy and his right hand, Meredith Ahr, for bullying employees and talent. Telegdy, who was the focus of the July 31 report, was ousted days later, and the company has since launched a probe into the workplace culture. Ahr remains at the company and is “fulfilling her role as normal,” an insider said.  Since Telegdy’s exit, NBCU promoted longtime exec Frances Berwick to lead the entertainment business amid a broader reorganization at NBCU, which has been financially crushed by the coronavirus pandemic. As part of those shifts, NBC is poised to announce that it lured away Susan Rovner, a Warner Bros. TV exec to oversee all programming for NBCU, according to multiple sources.  An insider told The Post that once the programming hire is made, the rest of the team will be determined by the new boss.   But those talks are already happening, according to a source, who said that Rovner’s Warner Bros. colleague Michael Darnell, who runs unscripted & alternative TV, is in talks for Ahr’s job. NBC declined to comment. Darnell did not return requests seeking comment.  Darnell, who has been dubbed in the press as “the king of reality TV,” brought “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “Family Guy”  to the small screen while working at Fox in the early aughts. Warner Bros. denied that Darnell is in talks to leave the company. According to multiple insiders, a group of execs on Ahr’s team canceled drinks with people outside the company on Monday, giving the excuse of “an HR issue.” The eyebrow-raising move may suggest a bigger shake up at the top of the reality TV division, a source said. While NBCU’s investigation is ongoing, THR’s report, which cited anonymous testimonial from over 30 current and former employees, suggested that Telgdy and Ahr ran a “mean girls” club, with Telegdy setting the tone by mocking gay staffers, telling sexually explicit personal stories during meetings and making racially insensitive remarks.  Last November, actress Gabrielle Union, a former judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” filed a harassment lawsuit that accused the network of being “a snake pit of racial offenses,” and claimed she was axed from the show when she complained.   Although NBC denied the claims, THR’s report painted a different picture, which included Ahr’s staff telling Union that her hair was “too wild” and needed to be “toned down” — notes that she alleges implied “that her hair was ‘too black.’”  Ahr also pulled a prank that struck several NBC execs as deeply offensive, which included putting a framed photo of a black actress whom Ahr apparently considered “very unattractive” on Telegdy’s desk, the report said.  “She played it off as if Paul could refer to that as his wife and make fun of it,” an exec said. NBC denied the incident.
Months after killing its iconic nudie magazine, Playboy Enterprises is eyeing a return to the stock market, The Post has learned. The company founded by Hugh Hefner 66 years ago has been talking to so-called blank-check companies about an investment to fund its push into sexual wellness products, spirits and cannabis, sources told The Post. The talks, which Reuters first reported on Friday, could pave the way for Playboy return to sell stock to the public again — nine years after it went private in a $207 million deal led by Hefner and private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management. Blank-check companies, also known as special acquisition vehicles or SPACs, go public to raise money to buy companies that then take over that ticker symbol, subverting the traditional IPO process. Among the SPACs Playboy’s bankers have reached out to is Mountain Crest, which has raised about $50 million and is led by Dr. Suying Liu, head of corporate strategist at Hudson Capital, a financial services firm based in Beijing. Of course, any SPAC that invests in Playboy would be buying a very different model than the one run by Hefner, who died in 2017 at the age of 91. His famed Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles has since been split into parcels of land. And his youngest son, Cooper Hefner, exited the business last year. But the biggest blow came in March when Playboy’s CEO Ben Kohn said the company would stop printing its flagship magazine, which first turned heads in 1953 with a nude Marilyn Monroe. Playboy is still a media company with a website that carries articles on sex and race and, of course, pics of naked women. But much of the company’s focus is now on sales of Playboy-branded products, including a cannabis-centric line of sex gels and sprays called “CBD by Playboy,”  as well as face masks dotted with the Playboy bunny logo. The brand is still big in countries like China, but has been losing momentum in the US for awhile now. As The Post has previously reported, the magazine’s sales were suffering well before the coronavirus brought it to its knees in March. And efforts to revive a Playboy Club at the Cachet Hotel on West 42 Street ended last year after just one year. Playboy CEO Kohn, the head of Rizvi Traverse, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Mountain Crest’s Liu could not be reached. Playboy’s fundraising efforts come as SPACs have more money to burn then ever. Of the 329 SPACs that went public in the last ten years, 103 of them came to be in 2020, raising $40 billion to go hunting for mergers, according to when SPACInsider.
NBCUniversal has reached a deal with Roku over its refusal to carry the media giant’s new Peacock video app on its platform. Sources close to negotiations said late Friday that an official statement is expected in the next few days. The hold-up is due to the fact that details surrounding the launch of the Peacock on the Roku are still being worked out, sources said. The deal comes a day after NBCU threatened to pull more than 11 of its channels from Roku by Saturday morning, if it did not carry its new service. Up until Friday, NBC’s Peacock — which includes programming from its NBC network and NBC News, as well as flicks from its Universal Pictures studio — had been unable to secure spots on Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV since it launched its service on July 15. Late Thursday, Roku told NBC that it planned to pull channels including Bravo, CNBC, E!, NBC News and MSNBC in a dispute that was sparked by a tussle over advertising revenue. While NBCU wants to make money from ads on Peacock, Roku’s website indicates the platform takes 20 percent of sign-up fees from its partners, as well as control of 30 percent of ad inventory. It is unclear if the two parties modified those terms to reach a deal. Nonetheless, the placement of Peacock, which is free to watch with commercials or $9.99 a month without ads, on Roku will give it access to over 40 million eyeballs. Peacock hopes to cash in on that broader audience while rivals like AT&T’s fledgling streaming service, HBO Max, struggles for meaningful growth. Currently, HBO Max is in similar negotiations to be included on streaming platform giants, Roku and Amazon.
Tesla has won its case against a whistleblower who was fired for hacking and transferring company data to a news publication. The electric automaker had filed a lawsuit against former Gigafactory employee Martin Tripp in 2018 after he got caught leaking an exposé to Business Insider. According to the information Tripp leaked, Tesla was shipping cars with unsafe batteries and wasting a “jaw dropping” amount of materials as it ramped up production of the Model 3 sedan. In its suit, Tesla claimed that Tripp had admitted to writing software that hacked the carmaker’s manufacturing operating system, transferring several gigabytes of its data to third parties and making false claims to the media. The US district court of Nevada said in its ruling that it will grant Tesla’s motions to seal “because compelling reasons support them, and they are unopposed.” The court also denied Tripp’s motion for leave to file an additional reply citing it as “unnecessary.” The ruling puts an end to messy saga that saw Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly wage a ruthless campaign against Tripp that included orchestrating a stunt to falsely portray him as a lunatic who threatened to shoot up the Gigafactory. While investigating to see if Tripp was the leaker, former Gigafactory security manager Sean Gouthro said Tesla’s security team somehow hacked into Tripp’s phone and were able to read his texts in real-time. Tesla, Tripp and the law firms leading the case did not immediately respond when Reuters contacted them late on Thursday. With Post wires