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Sasse slams 'Chairman Xi’s spy web' after reports UK will freeze Huawei out of 5G networks

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Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., hailed reports that the United Kingdom is planning to freeze the Chinese telecom giant Huawei out of its 5G network by the end of the year, saying it's "good for the British government" to be giving Huawei the boot after months of pressure from the U.S.

The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the U.K. would remove Huawei from its 5G infrastructure, and the Sunday Times reported the move would be complete "by Christmas." The United Kingdom's decision earlier this year to use Huawei to help build its 5G network sent American politicians into an uproar, with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., saying "Huawei has been and will continue to be a national security threat," and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., saying "[t]he Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will now have a foothold to conduct pervasive espionage on British society."

Now, as the U.K. is reportedly reversing its plans to use Huawei equipment – after a year of pressure from the U.S. to do otherwise – Sasse on Sunday voiced his support for the decision.

In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sasse Sunday said he supported the U.K.’s move to freeze Huawei out of its 5G network. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

"Chairman Xi’s spy web isn’t going to like this, but good for the British government," he said. "Shared security interests are a major part of our special relationship with the Brits, and the Chinese Communist Party’s tech puppet should not be allowed to sit on our closest ally’s networks."

The foreign policy victory for the United States comes as American officials are trying to fight back against a propaganda war from the Chinese government over the coronavirus, which Beijing has incorrectly said originated with the U.S. Army. It also comes as the two countries are engaged in military posturing in the South China Sea, trade tensions continue and both nations scramble to gain the upper hand in a 21st-century version of the space race.

China's pervasive human rights abuses and crackdowns against free speech, particularly with a new "national security" law passed last week aimed at pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, also complicate the relationship between the U.S. and China — two countries with extensive economic ties. The State Department last week started warning American companies against working with Chinese companies that are "literally using slave labor."

Sasse and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., two lawmakers who are almost constantly at odds, jointly led a letter in March urging the United Kingdom's government to reconsider its Huawei decision. The letter included the signatures of 20 total senators ranging from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

"Given the significant security, privacy, and economic threats posed by Huawei, we strongly urge the United Kingdom to revisit its recent decision, take steps to mitigate the risks of Huawei, and work in close partnership with the U.S. on such efforts going forward," the senators wrote.

They added: "Notably, the U.K. government itself has warned that Huawei’s telecommunications equipment raises “significant” security issues. Through China’s patchwork of vague intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws, Chinese companies are compelled to support and cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence-gathering authorities."

The Trump administration has also railed against Huawei being allowed into the United Kingdom and the company's ties to the CCP in general.

As the U.S. imposed rules preventing Huawei from accessing American technology in May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Huawei "a tool of the Chinese Communist Party, beholden to its orders."

Fox News' Gillian Turner and Sam Dorman contributed to this report. 

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Stores focus on coronavirus cleaning to get shoppers back to spending

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Forget about making shopping fun. As clothing retailers and others try to stay viable during the coronavirus pandemic, they’re hoping steps like cleaning during store hours, offering hand sanitizer and other safety measures will bring in customers to spend.

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At the same time, they are largely leaving fitting rooms open and not requiring shoppers to wear masks unless it’s a local rule, despite public health experts who advise that masks, social distancing and good ventilation are key for safety. That may make some already-jittery shoppers more nervous.

APPLE REOPENS 70+ MORE US STORES AFTER CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWN

“Shopping was something I really enjoyed. I like to look at clothes and jewelry. It was almost like therapy,” said Hope Kaplan, a 62-year-old publicist who is now only willing to go to the dentist and CVS because she’s worried about the coronavirus, especially with cases rising in her home of Tucson, Arizona.

American Eagle store associate greets customers at the welcome station at Cranberry Mall American Eagle Store in Cranberry, Pa. (Ross Ribblett/American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. via AP)

It’s a crucial moment for retailers, who are trying to recover from the worst sales slump on record. The months-long shutdowns accelerated store closings and bankruptcies. And some stores may start closing some locations again as cases climb in states like Florida, Arizona and Texas. Apple already has.

Retailers used to encourage shoppers to linger, offering enticements like food, trying on clothes and makeup and playing with toys in their stores – things you couldn’t do on Amazon. Now stores are more grab-and-go, with curbside pick-up an option. But they say shoppers who want to hang out in the store still can.

J. CREW REOPENS HUNDREDS OF STORES WITH CORONAVIRUS SAFETY PROTOCOLS

“Shopping is an emotional experience,″ said Melissa Gonzalez, a New York-based retail consultant. “The problem is, how do you bring safety measures but still make shopping inviting and fun?”

Workers test social distancing at the Macy’s Herald Square location on June 19, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Taking a page from retailers like Walmart, Target and Home Depot, which have stayed open because they were deemed essential businesses, many major retailers are making employees wear masks, constantly cleaning public areas, adding plexiglass shields by cashiers, limiting the number of customers in stores and adding signs that remind shoppers to keep six feet apart.

“I like that stores are constantly cleaning,” said Madelyn Rouse, 17, of Chicago, who recently shopped at American Eagle Outfitters, Urban Outfitters and Forever 21.

Saks Fifth Avenue offers appointment shopping before and after hours, while J.C. Penney dedicates certain shopping hours to vulnerable customers. American Eagle and Sephora provide hand sanitizer at store entrances.

Instead of letting customers sample makeup, Macy’s cosmetics counter employees show colored drawings of what the makeup looks like. Ulta Beauty and Sephora have phone apps that let customers virtually try on lipstick and other beauty products.

American Eagle store associate conducts the touchless process with a customer at Cranberry Mall American Eagle Store in Cranberry, Pa. (Ross Ribblett/American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. via AP)

As for masks, which public-health experts encourage to curb the spread of the virus, American Eagle is one of the few requiring that customers wear them in all stores. It hands out masks at store entrances. But having store workers enforce social distancing can be difficult, particularly when dealing with shoppers who don’t want to wear masks.

BEST BUY REOPENING 800 CLOSED STORES WITH CORONAVIRUS SAFETY MEASURES

Stores are also opening fitting rooms, which are crucial for many clothing shoppers but are also closely packed spaces where people could potentially infect each other. Even chains that initially closed dressing rooms, like Gap, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s, are now reopening them. The stores say they will remove clothing that’s tried on from the sales floor for a few days. American Eagle is steam cleaning the rejected clothes.

Social distancing, masks, constant disinfecting and well-ventilated indoor spaces are all important, said Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University. He recommends keeping fitting rooms closed until a later phase in the reopening and believes clothes themselves are not a likely source of infection.

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Workers’ top safety concern is that customers won’t wear masks, said Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union that represents roughly 6,300 New York-area Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s employees.

One Macy’s worker in New York was apprehensive about returning to work in late June, but said he feels safe.

“You have to create an environment of safety for us and the customers,” said Steve Ward, 58, who works in the mattress area. “Before, our focus was just selling.

He sprays the mattress with disinfectant in front of customers before and after they try it out.

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A CEO who took the helm of a struggling company at the start of the coronavirus outbreak reveals the 3 hardest leadership lessons she learned about building trust and navigating a business through the crisis

  • Megan Clarken is a first-time CEO at Criteo, a global online advertising company, who was appointed right before the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Clarken shared the leadership lessons she learned while leading during a pandemic. 
  • She said it's important to be transparent, over communicate, and make sure employees are aligned with the company's mission. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When Megan Clarken joined online advertising platform Criteo as CEO last December, she wasn't expecting to lead 2,700 employees through a global crisis like the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Clarken, a former chief commercial officer at Nielsen, was appointed to help turnaround the struggling company. Criteo's shares fell 24.3% during the first six months of 2019, and hit a 52-week low this January. Clarken knew the company was struggling, and her plan as CEO was to help it grow.

But when coronavirus hit she quickly had to shift her focus. 

"My role turned from a turnaround job to a crisis management job, and that's a different set of muscles — one that I and the leadership team have to get in front of very quickly," she said. 

Clarken told Business Insider that she had to make sure the company's operations and finances were running smoothly, while simultaneously forming relationships with employees through virtual meetings.

"The biggest challenge is shooting in the dark, or the fact that we really have no idea what's going to come," she said. "But even though it's a time of challenge, it's also a time of learning." 

Here are some of the leadership lessons Clarken has learned since becoming CEO during the crisis. 

Trust creates a more energized workforce. 

Cultivating trust is important during a crisis because it helps employees stay motivated. 

A recent survey of 1,095 workers in the US by Claremont Graduate University, found that staffers in high-trust companies have 106% more energy, 76% more engagement, and 40% less burnout than workers at low-trust companies.

"In leadership you need to build trust, and you can only do that by earning it," Clarken said. 

She recommended that the first thing employers should do is be transparent — or be direct about employee and customer expectations — even if that means having some difficult conversations. 

For example, leaders can embrace feedback, frequently communicate with employees, and admit mistakes or areas where the company needs improvement, the CEO said. 

"This means you almost need to feel vulnerable and open yourself up as well," Clarken added. 

It's important to create a clear vision for the company. 

One of the most important parts of leading any organization is setting a clear vision. 

For example, Criteo is focused on creating long-term, sustainable growth while encouraging a familial and empathetic company culture. Every decision the company makes is aligned with that key mission, she said.

"I drew up a plan, and it was important to me that everybody understood the role that they play in that vision," Clarken said. "First, you set up values that are organized around keeping that company vision. Then, you continue to communicate throughout the entire first few months, and then over-communicate." 

According to a Glassdoor survey of 5,000 adults, about 56% of respondents said company culture is more important than compensation when it comes to job satisfaction. About 73% of respondents said they wouldn't apply for a position unless the company's values align with theirs. 

Building virtual lines of communication with employees can be challenging. 

Effective communication is a vital skill to have during a crisis. 

As a new CEO, Clarken struggled with this lesson. She had to quickly learn how to build relationships with employees online. 

"The fact that you're never face-to-face with somebody except for on Zoom and this sense of not really knowing whether people are okay or at the edge, this becomes really challenging for me," Clarken said. "For me, personally, it's hard to not get a feel of whether the 2,700 I'm leading are okay." 

Because you aren't physically with your coworkers everyday, Clarken recommends all leaders take time to assess how they can become better at communicating with their workforce. This could mean setting up consistent times for meetings, creating open lines of communication with your employees, and simply bonding with your colleagues without a business agenda, she said. 

"All those things become harder when we're in the environment that we're in right now," she told Business Insider. "Everyday I want to make sure that I continue to reach everybody in the organization as best as I can."

Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

Get the latest coronavirus business & economic impact analysis from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is affecting industries.

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Uber agrees to buy food-delivery service Postmates for $2.65 billion in stock

  • Uber agreed to buy Postmates, the fourth-largest U.S. delivery food service, for $2.65 billion in stock.
  • Uber had attempted to acquire GrubHub last month but talks failed.
  • Uber's deal for Postmates will likely draw less regulatory scrutiny than an acquisition of GrubHub.

Uber has bought food-delivery service Postmates for $2.65 billion in stock, the two companies announced Monday.

The deal brings together the fourth-largest U.S. food delivery service with Uber Eats, which trails only DoorDash in market share, according to reports from reports from Second Measure and Edison Trends. Uber intends to keep thePostmates app running separately, "supported by a more efficient, combined merchant and delivery network," the companies said in a statement. 

Uber previously was in the running to buy rival food delivery service GrubHub, but talks broke down as the two companies could not agree on a break-up fee, and the ride-sharing company grew frustrated with what it perceived as stalling tactics,CNBC previously reported. GrubHub instead sold to European food delivery service JustEatTakeaway in early June.

Uber is banking on food delivery to help sustain its business during the coronavirus pandemic, as demand for ride-sharing has plunged. In its first-quarter earnings call, Uber said that gross bookings revenue for its Rides segment was down 80% in April from a year ago, while gross bookings revenue in Eats was up more than 50% during that same period. 

Postmates has had success in specific urban areas Los Angeles and Miami but has struggled to compete nationally against DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber Eats. Even with Postmates, Uber will still trail DoorDash in food delivery market share, according to Edison Trends. That should help with U.S. regulators, who may have pushed back on an Uber-GrubHub tieup but could be more likely to accept an Uber-Postmates deal. 

Postmates had reportedly filed confidentially for an IPO in February 2019, but delayed its offering later that year amid deteriorating market conditions and tough competition, according to Recode.

Postmates had also been considering re-starting the IPO process, as well as an offer from a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) — essentially a shell company that exists solely to take another company public, CNBC previously reported. The San Francisco-based company was valued at $2.4 billion in its last fundraising round in September, Reuters said.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

WATCH: Uber to buy food-delivery service Postmates in $2.65 billion all-stock deal

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Tesla is transforming how cars are sold. But 27 insiders say the company's methods mean slashed pay and living under the constant threat of getting laid off.

  • Business Insider spoke with 27 current and former Tesla sales employees about the changes the company has made to their jobs and the way it sells cars.
  • Some said they were frustrated by compensation changes that have cut their overall pay and disappointed in their store's response to the coronavirus.
  • Others complimented Tesla's efforts to make the car-buying process more customer-friendly.
  • Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at [email protected], on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address [email protected]
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In February 2019, Shawn Bechtel was driving to Fort Collins, Colorado, to pick up a Tesla Model X that a prospective customer had kept overnight after a test drive.

That's when Bechtel's coworker read an announcement that Tesla had just published on its website. It said they might be out of a job.

"Over the next few months, we will be winding down many of our stores, with a small number of stores in high-traffic locations remaining as galleries, showcases, and Tesla information centers," the message read.

The note was buried in a blog post announcing the availability of the long-promised $35,000 version of the Tesla Model 3 sedan.

Bechtel felt a combination of numbness and panic as he and his coworker wondered how the news would affect them. They frantically called and texted their manager and colleagues, only to learn that they, too, were baffled.

"Nobody knew what was going on," Bechtel said.

There was confusion higher up the corporate ladder as well, according to a former regional sales manager who worked on the East Coast. He hadn't been briefed on the announcement before it was published, so he texted his boss' boss, but they had no answers.

Tesla had a tendency to reveal pricing changes to the public and its employees at the same time, the manager said, but the company had never made a surprise announcement this important.

About a week later, Tesla's sales employees received an update: The company would not be closing most of its stores, but, after shuttering 10% of them, it would evaluate 20% of the remaining locations and eliminate the weakest, the update said.

The new announcement had a glaring omission, according to a former salesperson who worked on the West Coast: any acknowledgment of the stress Tesla had created for its sales team over the past 10 days.

"That, to me, was pretty cold-hearted," he said.

In recent years, the faith of some of Tesla's sales employees has been challenged, putting them at odds between the excitement of contributing to the world's transition toward sustainable energy and a corporate culture that's made instability a way of life.

In the months since February 2019, Business Insider has spoken with 27 current and former Tesla sales employees who've worked across 11 states spanning both coasts. Twenty-five of the current and former employees asked to speak on condition of anonymity because they said they feared retaliation from Tesla, yet their identities are known to Business Insider.

Tesla did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at [email protected], on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address [email protected]

A sense of purpose, at a price

Morale took a big hit in the days, weeks, and months after Tesla's initial announcement about store closures, 15 current and former sales employees said.

"It was the most dismal week ever," the former salesperson who worked on the West Coast said. "Everybody was depressed."

Thinking they'd soon have to look for a new job, his colleagues and managers updated their LinkedIn profiles in their store's back office, the former salesperson said. At another store on the West Coast, a manager offered to help her salespeople polish their résumés, a current salesperson said.

That manager wasn't the only one stretching beyond her normal duties. In the weeks before one former salesperson was let go, he and his colleagues were assigned to periodically clean their store's floor and bathrooms, the former salesperson said.

A few months later, he was rehired and back on cleaning duty within days. His store didn't have mops, so he and his coworkers got on their hands and knees and polished its floor with microfiber towels meant for cars, he said.

Tesla is nearly 20 years old, and its guiding principles are clear: Wean the public off gas-powered vehicles, for the good of planet Earth. But the sense of purpose this mission imparts has a price, three former sales employees said.

"It's a very mission-driven organization," the former East Coast regional manager said. "That mission and its sustainability and viability took precedence over any and every other facet of the organization, including employee well-being."

Earlier this year, that dynamic frustrated four salespeople who said their stores remained open while the coronavirus spread rapidly in the US. Tesla hasn't disclosed the number of stores it temporarily closed in response to COVID-19, which had infected 44,000 people and killed 550 people nationwide by the time the company paused operations at its car factory in Fremont, California.

But the four salespeople said their locations were still open in mid-March, and three of them said their stores lacked essential supplies, such as hand sanitizer, gloves, and wipes.

The level of preparedness at Tesla's stores was uneven. One current salesperson who works in the South praised his location's response, saying it quickly enacted social-distancing procedures, went the extra mile in cleaning vehicles, and had a healthy stock of soap, hand sanitizer, and wipes.

Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, told all his employees they could stay home if they were sick or concerned about the coronavirus without fear of punishment; but three salespeople who took Musk up on that offer said they still worried about the consequences of remaining at home for too long. Tesla had, in January 2019, laid off 7% of its employees, six months after cutting 9% of its workforce.

"We feel like there's an ax over our head every day at Tesla," the current salesperson who works on the West Coast said. "They lay off with no notice. They're just notorious for that."

By April, staying home was no longer a choice for many salespeople. CNBC reported that about half of Tesla's sales and delivery employees were put on furlough amid temporary company-wide pay cuts that followed an industry-wide disruption to vehicle sales and production.

Tesla's inventory levels rose from 11 days' to 20 days' worth of supply between the end of December and the end of March, while overall new-car sales in the US had dropped by 41% in March 2020, compared with March 2019, according to JD Power.

Tesla did not respond to several requests for comment about when it started to bring sales and delivery employees back from furlough and whether any of them were still on unpaid leave.

As sales have risen, pay has declined

Pay cuts were not a new phenomenon for Tesla salespeople. Employees described a dizzying array of compensation changes over the past years as commissions and bonuses were removed and reconfigured. Those changes tended to point in one direction — down — even as the company's sales repeatedly hit record highs.

Last October, commissions were eliminated, a move offset by an increase in base pay. But, according to an online petition posted in January by one salesperson, the increase in their hourly rate was not enough to make up for the loss of commissions. Four other salespeople, all of whom still work for Tesla, said their overall pay fell after October.

A salesperson who works in the Midwest said Tesla has "a general attitude that you can do whatever to people's compensation, and they'll just stick around because they love the company. I think that's starting to wear on a lot of people."

Tesla's financial condition and share price have improved over time, but the electric-car maker has never made an annual profit. Building electric cars is a complicated and expensive undertaking that's put all but a few companies that have tried it out of business.

And Tesla has come close to going broke on several occasions — as recently as 2018. At times the company has had little choice but to aggressively cut costs.

"It is extremely important that we examine every expenditure at Tesla no matter how small, and be sure that it is critical," Musk said in a 2019 email to Tesla employees. "This is hardcore, but it is the only way for Tesla to become financially sustainable and succeed in our goal of helping make the world environmentally sustainable."

Reinventing the car dealership

For all the frustrations Tesla salespeople described, many lauded the company's efforts to promote sustainable energy and transportation.

"The company is changing the world," said a current salesperson who works on the East Coast. 

That enthusiasm is not just a matter of training or professional convenience. Five current and former salespeople said they own a Tesla vehicle, and all gave them positive or even glowing reviews.

The current salesperson who works on the East Coast owns a Model 3 and said the difference between a Tesla and its competitors resembles that between a flying car from "The Jetsons" and the foot-powered vehicles from "The Flintstones."

Tesla's salespeople aren't alone in praising the company's vehicles. In Consumer Reports surveys, for example, Tesla owners have repeatedly expressed higher rates of satisfaction than those of any other automotive brand.

Since 2018, Tesla has made the buying process easier, including merging its energy and car sales teams into one unit and making salespeople more involved in deliveries. The company has also simplified ordering a car online, said Gene Munster, of Loup Ventures, who writes research notes about Tesla. "In retail, you want to make it as easy as possible, and I think that they've done that," he said.

Tesla's approach to selling vehicles has come to resemble a traditional retail store more than a car dealership, said the former East Coast regional manager. In a retail store, employees are incentivized to make sure each shopper has the best possible experience, rather than focusing more narrowly on the number of sales they make on a given day, he said.

"That's a much more holistic approach to the Tesla customer and to the experience for the customer than just 'Did we sell the car and did we get them out the door?'" the former East Coast regional manager said.

The salesperson from the southern US previously worked for Ford and Lincoln dealerships, and said Tesla is more customer-oriented. There's less pressure to make sales at Tesla, he said, and more of an emphasis on building relationships with shoppers.

That sentiment aligns with a philosophy Musk has described multiple times: Tesla customers should not feel like they're at a traditional car dealership, haggling with pushy salespeople.

But in signaling a desire to shift sales online, Tesla has underestimated the value of its salespeople, six current and former employees said. While the company may one day adopt an online-only retail model, some customers still need in-person support, five of the current and former sales employees said.

A salesperson can recognize that a customer who comes to their store to test-drive a Model 3, which starts at $38,000, would be happier with a Model S sedan, which starts at $75,000 and generates higher profits for Tesla, a former regional manager who worked in the northern US and left the company in 2019 said.

And customers respond to the interpersonal skills a salesperson can offer, like the ability to build a rapport with their family members, said a former salesperson who worked in the Midwest and left Tesla in 2019.

For one current salesperson who works part-time in the eastern US, their experience at Tesla has revealed a gap between the company's ideals and the way it treats employees. In the months after commissions were eliminated, the salesperson said they had to stop buying contact lenses and new clothes, start taking the bus to work on days they couldn't afford gas, and begin using a food bank.

The salesperson was anxious and embarrassed the first time they visited the food bank, an experience heightened by an interaction they described with a woman who worked there. The woman noticed the salesperson's Tesla jacket and said her parents own three of the company's vehicles. "You must own a Tesla," the woman said.

The salesperson has been looking for other jobs, they say, but has struggled to find one that would match even the reduced pay Tesla now offers. Part of what has kept them at the company is also the hope that it may one day provide the opportunities for growth touted when they first joined it, like the ability to move between departments.

For now, they say, the salesperson is hoping the company will fulfill its promise, made over a year ago, to expand their part-time position into a full-time one.

"What Tesla could be and what Tesla says it is, is an amazing thing," the salesperson said. "I just need it to hold up to those standards."

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Elon Musk's ex-wife Talulah Riley issued a statement denying she was procured for Musk as a 'child bride' by Ghislaine Maxwell

  • Actress Talulah Riley published a statement on Saturday denying rumors that she was procured as a "child bride" for her ex-husband Elon Musk by Ghislaine Maxwell, the woman accused of trafficking underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein.
  • Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday, and social media users began re-circulating a photo on Twitter of Musk standing next to Maxwell at a Vanity Fair party in 2014.
  • Riley said she had seen rumors on Twitter that her relationship with Musk was set up by Maxwell.
  • "I don't know Maxwell. Elon and I met when I was 22 and he was on a business trip to London. It was a chance meeting, engineered by no one," Riley said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

British actress Talulah Riley has addressed bizarre rumors that she was procured as a "child bride" for her ex-husband, Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, by Jeffrey Epstein's associate Ghislaine Maxwell.

Riley published a statement on Twitter on Saturday after a photograph of Musk standing next Maxwell at a Vanity Fair party began to re-circulate.

Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday, and charged with helping Epstein to procure underage girls to abuse. Her arrest has fueled speculation of which other high-profile figures may have known of Epstein's behavior.

"To my knowledge, I have never met Ghislaine Maxwell," Riley said in her statement.

The picture was taken at a 2014 Oscars after-party thrown by Vanity Fair, where Riley said she was present. "It is possible I was briefly introduced to her, but not in any way that I can remember."

Riley also addressed rumors she'd seen on Twitter that she had been procured for Musk by Maxwell as a "child bride." 

"Again, I don't know Maxwell. Elon and I met when I was 22 and he was on a business trip to London. It was a chance meeting, engineered by no one," she wrote.

"I'm distressed by something so truly awful being thrown around this court-of-Twitter. I hope that every victim of Epstein's finds justice and peace, and that any person involved in harming underage girls is punished to the full extent of the law.

Riley told Ashlee Vance, author of the Elon Musk biography "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future," that she met him at a bar in London in 2008. The pair got married in 2010 and divorced in 2012. They then got married again in 2013, and divorced again in 2016.

The photo of Elon Musk standing next to Ghislaine Maxwell was brought to light in 2019, and a spokesperson for Elon Musk told Business Insider at the time that Maxwell "simply inserted herself behind him in a photo he was posing for without his knowledge."

The photo began recirculating on Twitter after Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday. Musk tweeted on Thursday that he did not know her, saying she "photobombed" him.

In her statement, Riley said that she went together with Musk to Epstein's house once as part of "an itinerary of appointments."

Musk told Vanity Fair in July last year that he'd been to Epstein's Manhattan residence with Riley.

He said: "Several years ago, I was at his house in Manhattan for about 30 minutes in the middle of the afternoon with Talulah, as she was curious about meeting this strange person for a novel she was writing. We did not see anything inappropriate at all, apart from weird art. He tried repeatedly to get me to visit his island. I declined."

In January of this year two sources told Business Insider Jeffrey Epstein set up Musk's brother Kimbal Musk with a woman in an attempt to get close to Elon Musk. Epstein and members of his entourage were given a private tour of SpaceX's California facility in 2012, the sources said. Musk denied this on Saturday.

"To the best our knowledge, he never toured SpaceX. Don't know where that comes from," Musk tweeted.

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Scientists Plan To Urge WHO To Take Airborne Spread Of Coronavirus More Seriously

A group of 239 scientists plans to urge the World Health Organization to more seriously consider the threat that the novel coronavirus may be spread by microscopic particles in the air.

The New York Times first reported Saturday that an international coalition of researchers will publish an open letter asking WHO to address airborne transmission of the virus. The scientists say there is growing evidence tiny aerosols can linger in the air indoors and result in new infections.

Throughout the pandemic, WHO has maintained that the virus spreads mainly through larger respiratory droplets or contact and has primarily urged people to wash their hands and socially-distance to prevent infection. These droplets, released by coughs or sneezes, are heavier than smaller aerosols and fall to the floor more quickly, thus presenting less of a threat if proper distance is maintained between a healthy and infected person.

However, if airborne transmission of the coronavirus is a significant threat, it could dramatically impact safety guidelines. According to the Times, people would need to wear masks inside places with poor ventilation even if they were socially distancing. Ventilation systems in schools and businesses would need to be updated to use powerful new filtration. Health care workers would also require high-quality N95 masks to filter out even the smallest droplets.

The scientists’ letter, titled “It Is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19,” will be published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. 

Don Milton, a co-author of the letter and a professor at the University of Maryland, said on Twitter that the group was calling on WHO to revise guidelines in light of the possible aerosol threat.

“Simple things can make a big difference,” Milton wrote. “Wear masks whenever you are not at home; even simple homemade masks can have a major impact. Open windows. Don’t gather in large groups inside with singing and loud talking. These three simple things will save lives.” 

To date, more than 11 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 around the world and more than 534,000 have died.

Even as states reel from a resurgence in cases, scientists still don’t know how many people have been infected, why some patients show symptoms for months and others none at all, and how close to a vaccine the world may be or how well it will work.

Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO’s technical lead on infection control, said she remained unconvinced that airborne transmission was a threat.

“Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence,” Allegranzi told The Times. “There is a strong debate on this.”

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Is Stamp Duty being axed? Rishi Sunak to make new announcement

Coronavirus has had an unprecedented effect on the housing market, and the Chancellor is intervening in a bid to stimulate demand. Rishi Sunak has been praised for his role in the coronavirus crisis, having created the lifeline furlough scheme paying workers who have found themselves unable to do their usual jobs.

The housing market was all but closed during the worst of the crisis, and when the UK was put into a harsh lockdown people were forbidden from moving homes.

Rishi Sunak is thought to be looking at raising the threshold at which homebuyers will have to pay the tax.

Currently the levy is not charged on the first £125,000 of a property’s selling price, with a two percent rate up to £250,000 and five percent on the next £675,000.

The new threshold, which would be put in place for six months to stimulate demand, is likely to be set at somewhere between £300,000 and £500,000.

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  • Stamp duty: The ‘government needs to take immediate action’

House prices fell for the third month in a row in May, with the average house price in the UK falling by 0.2 percent according to Halifax.

Figures from HM Revenue & Customs show that in April sales of homes fell to their lowest level since records began in 2005.

There were just 38,060 transactions recorded during the month – less than half the number seen at the same point a year ago.

All of these were on sales that had been agreed pre-pandemic, as moving house was not allowed in the midst of the crisis.

Ministers have long been under pressure to take action on stamp duty to help stimulate the housing market.

Last year the then-chancellor Sajid Javid was understood to be considering a radical overhaul that would have made sellers pay the levy rather than buyers.

Those in favour of the change had argued that it would help buyers move up the property ladder as they would be paying the duty on the house they are selling rather than on the usually more expensive one they are buying.

Mr Sunak will give a summer economic update to MPs on Wednesday afternoon, but they will have to wait until autumn for the next full-blown Budget.

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  • Help to Buy ISA: How the account differs from Lifetime ISA savings

The Chancellor is also expected to announce another slew of measures to help the economy get going, after economists have predicted the worst is yet to come.

The Sunday Express learnt yesterday that on Wednesday the Chancellor will announce that he will double the number of work coaches from 13,500 to 27,000, one of the largest ever increases in front line jobcentre staff.

He is also set to put in £32 million for the National Careers Service to help young people get jobs with what Treasury sources are suggesting will be a major focus on the young.

This is expected to be focussed on getting young people into work through apprenticeships.

It means around 250,000 more young people will benefit from tailored jobs advice through a £32 million investment.

There was also strong speculation from senior Conservative sources last night that Mr Sunak is considering a holiday on employers having to pay national insurance contributions to remove a barrier to employ people.

There is also speculation that he may look at changing the furlough system to help pay the wages of people in some struggling sectors.

The Chancellor is also expected to announce a reduction in VAT for the hospitality sector, expected to last six months.

Pubs, restaurants, bars and other venues opened their doors on July 4 to tentative Brits after months of being forced to close.

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Atlanta mayor calls for citizens to stop 'shooting each other' after murder of 8-year-old near BLM protest site

Leo Terrell on frustration with left’s failure to call out rioters, says Black Lives Matter is disingenuous

Civil rights attorney Leo Terrell joins Mark Levin on ‘Life, Liberty & Levin’ to discuss state of race relations, police reform in America.

In an impassioned press conference Sunday night, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a full-throated call for citizens to stop "shooting each other up on our streets," after an eight-year-old girl was shot and killed on the Fourth of July near a Wendy's that has become a flashpoint of anti-police Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the city.

Bottoms, a Democrat who is considered a potential running mate for Joe Biden, made the remarks as she fought through tears — and the nation endured a new bout of urban carnage. Sixty-three people were injured and 17 killed in Chicago, including two children, over the weekend; and in New York City, 44 were hurt and at least six killed.

“Enough is enough," Bottoms said. "Enough is enough. We have talked about this movement that's happening across America and this moment in time when we have the ears and the interests of people across this country and across this globe who are saying they want to see change. But the difference in this moment in time with the civil rights movement — the civil rights movement, there was a defined, common enemy. We're fighting the enemy within when we are shooting each other up on our streets."

She continued: "You shot and killed a baby. And there wasn’t just one shooter; there were at least two shooters. An eight-year-old baby. If you want people to take us seriously, and you don't want us to lose this movement, then we can't lose each other."

"It has to stop," Bottoms added, according to FOX 5 Atlanta. "You can't blame this on police officers. It's about people who shot a baby in a car. We're doing each other more harm than any officer on this force."

Secoriya Williamson, the father of eight-year-old Secoriea Turner, told reporters that his daughter had been killed after at least two people in a crowd of armed people opened fire on a car she was riding in with her mother. Authorities said the mother had attempted to drive through illegally placed barricades in the area when the vehicle came under fire Saturday night.

Bottoms said there have been problems with protesters in the area putting up barriers to close off the street. She said she received a message that the barriers were back up less than an hour before she was informed that the eight-year-old girl had died.

"They say Black Lives Matter. You killed your own," Williamson said. "They killed my baby because she crossed a barrier and made a U-turn? You killed a child. She didn't do nothing to nobody. Black Lives Matter? You killing your own. You killed an eight-year-old child. She ain't did nothing to no one of y'all. She just wanted to get home to see her cousin. That's all she wanted to do."

The shooting happened near the Wendy’s restaurant where a black man, Rayshard Brooks, was killed by an Atlanta police officer on June 12. Brooks was shot only after he was caught on tape beating two officers, stealing a taser from one, and then turning and shooting the taser at an officer. The officer who shot Brooks is now fighting charges that could bring the death penalty, and the officer's stepmother was fired from her job. (She told Fox News she was "stunned" by her termination and the charges against her son.)

The fast-food outlet was later burned, and the area has since become a site for frequent demonstrations against alleged police brutality.

In a statement Sunday, police said the girl was in a car with her mother and a friend of the mother when they got off Interstate-75/85 onto University Avenue and were trying to enter a parking lot nearby. They ran into a group of armed individuals who had blocked the entrance.

“At some point, someone in that group opened fire on the vehicle, striking it multiple times and striking the child who was inside,” the statement read. The driver drove the girl to Atlanta Medical Center but she did not survive.

Police said they are seeking help from the public to identify those involved and released a wanted poster saying a person all dressed in black and another in a white T-shirt were being sought.

"Police shot 9 unarmed black people all of last year. 25 people were shot just in Atlanta. Yesterday."

“An eight-year-old girl was killed last night because her mother was riding down the street,” Bottoms said. “If Secoriea was not safe last night, none of us are safe.”

The mayor urged anyone with information about the shooting to come forward.

"The political agenda of BLM results in blacks being killed," said journalist Andy Ngo, who extensively covers Antifa and the BLM movement.  BLM explicitly advocates for the destruction of the "nuclear family structure," which President Trump has called the "bedrock of American life." Multiple commentators have agreed that stable family structures greatly reduce crime rates, citing statistics and personal experience.

Added commentator Matt Walsh: "Police shot 9 unarmed black people all of last year. 25 people were shot just in Atlanta. Yesterday. And not by police. BLM says the first thing is a crisis worthy of rioting but the second is not."

Until recently, BLM was viewed with skepticism by members of both parties. A newly unearthed, secretive 2015 Democratic congressional memo flatly calls BLM a "radical" group.

The violence in Atlanta wasn't restricted to BLM-related areas. Police said two other people, in addition to the eight-year-old, were killed and more than 20 people were injured in incidents of gunfire and violence during the long holiday weekend.

The mayor said the city’s 911 system was flooded with calls Saturday night and pointed to protesters who damaged a Georgia State Patrol headquarters in Atlanta in a separate incident early Sunday. But she said the city’s police force, though tasked by the weekend’s shootings, did not have problems with large numbers of police officers calling in sick.

That had been a problem in the days after murder charges were filed against one of the officers in the Brooks shooting.

Meanwhile, citing publicly available data, commentators have asserted that the very idea of systemic racism by police is questionable — and that efforts to focus on the police may obscure problems elsewhere.

"In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population," Heather Mac Donald wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

"In 2018 there were 7,407 black homicide victims," she went on. "Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African-Americans killed in 2019. By contrast, a police officer is 18½ times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer."

Mac Donald continued: "A 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects. Research by Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr. also found no evidence of racial discrimination in shootings. Any evidence to the contrary fails to take into account crime rates and civilian behavior before and during interactions with police."

Fryer's work has also determined that when police pull out of communities, black deaths tend to increase.

"The false narrative of systemic police bias resulted in targeted killings of officers during the Obama presidency," Mac Donald concluded.

Fox News' Edmund DeMarche and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Europe’s Failure to Tame Google’s Dominance Is a Lesson for U.S.

As U.S. authorities ready the biggest antitrust case of the new century, there are lessons to be learned from Europe’s attempt to inject more competition into search, one of the most lucrative digital markets.

Two years after a record fine and an order to give Europeans more choice, Alphabet Inc.’s Google retains a vice-like grip on this business. In May 2018, just before the European Commission acted, Google had 97% of the mobile search market in the region, according to StatCounter. Its share for May this year was even higher.

“We don’t want them to copy the current EU model because it’s fundamentally flawed,” said Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive officer of rival search service DuckDuckGo, referring to the Justice Department and state regulators. The firm spoke recently with those authorities about Google’s dominance.

How U.S. regulators proceed, and whether they learn from Europe’s experience, will help determine the fate of what is likely to be the most important antitrust case since the DOJ sued Microsoft Corp. more than two decades ago. With more than $100 billion in cash, and quarterly profit exceeding $6 billion, big fines have little impact on Google. So regulators are increasingly looking to remedies that may change the company’s behavior and offer consumers more choice. The DOJ reached out to at least one European company, Ecosia, to discuss versions of Google’s remedy in the EU case, the German search engine has said.

In 2018, Europe’s antitrust authorities focused on the subtle but important factors that solidified Google’s grip on the region’s mobile search market. Getting a service pre-installed on smartphones often leads to big user gains, as does appearing on the home screens of handsets. Google has used deals tied to its popular Android mobile operating system to ensure its search engine gets such prized placements, leaving little room for rivals.

The EU ordered Google to stop bundling its search and browser apps with Android. Google reacted by charging phone manufacturers to license Android. It also opted to appease regulators by offering choice to users — but only on new Android phones from March 1 and only via a “choice screen” of three alternative search apps shown once when people switch on the handsets for the first time.

There’s a precedent for approaches like this working. In 2017, Russia’s antitrust watchdog ordered Google to let competing search engines and other apps be pre-installed on Android smartphones in the country. The company also had to create a “choice window” for devices already in the market, so users could choose their default search engine when they next updated the software on their devices. Since that ruling, Russia’s Yandex NV has grown its search market share in the country by 20 percentage points to 58%, according to Bernstein Research estimates.

Europe’s choice screen has failed to produce similar results so far. In March and April, rivals DuckDuckGo, Givero and Seznam.cz AS won slots to appear but got no new downloads for their search apps. DuckDuckGo was offered to customers across Europe while Givero bid to appear only in Denmark and Seznam in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

In May, Seznam said it got fewer than 1,000 downloads. Two other search providers said the choice screen has brought them no new customers. They asked not to be identified, citing a non-disclosure agreement with Google. Another search app, PrivacyWall, saw “no major market share shifts,” according to CEO Jonathan Wu. Microsoft’s Bing, a well-financed and capable challenger to Google, has barely appeared on the choice screen, winning just one slot in the U.K. from May to June. Microsoft and other search companies declined to comment.

Bernstein analysts have already concluded that the choice screen is “unlikely to be a major disrupter to Google in its current form,” according to a June 18 research note.

Google declined to give details on how many times the choice screen has been shown to European consumers. Android “provides people with unprecedented choice in deciding which applications they install, use and set as default on their devices,” the company said. “In developing the Choice Screen for Europe, we carefully balanced providing users with yet more choice while ensuring that we can continue to invest in developing and maintaining the open-source Android platform for the long-term.”

The internet giant may be maintaining its lead in Europe because consumers think it has the best search engine. Google invests billions of dollars a year to provide quick, accurate answers to queries. Wall Street analysts often say users would switch back to Google after using alternatives, and they’ve been right before. However, the case of Yandex suggests otherwise. Many Android phone owners in Russia have been using Yandex’s search engine for at least a year and the market share data indicate there’s been no big switch back to Google.

It isn’t the European Commission’s job to force Google to be smaller or less dominant. Instead, the antitrust authority tries to set up mechanisms to trigger more choice and remove roadblocks. That means even if the choice screen is seen billions of times by consumers in the region, Google’s market share could remain at 97%.

“The European Union probably did the best job they could with the rules that they had,” said Aitor Ortiz, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “The problem is maybe the rules were not fit for the purpose.”

The real reason the European choice screen has flopped so far is that the remedy was designed poorly, according to Google rivals in the region.

While Russia ordered Google to show consumers search alternatives on Android phones, the EU merely asked Google to choose how it could remedy alleged bad behavior and a lack of competition. Google mimicked a pop-up menu first used in 2009 by Microsoft to resolve an EU antitrust probe into web browsers. Showing users other browser options even helped Google’s Chrome gain ground against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Microsoft didn’t charge rivals to appear in this browser choice screen and showed as many as 12 rivals. In contrast, Google is using a paid auction to pick rival apps for each country. The highest bidders appear in three slots on the Android choice screen alongside Google. The company only gets paid when another app is downloaded, but it also gets valuable data on rivals’ business strategies.

The approach “lets the fox watch the hens,” said Brian Schildt Laursen, owner of Denmark-based Givero. Apps “have to tell Google what markets are important to us, and what we are willing to pay to get into these markets.”

“A general misunderstanding was that EU citizens from March 1 had a free choice of search engine on Android,” he added. “This was not the case.”

Successful bidders are supposed to get monthly invoices from Google showing how many of their apps have been downloaded. That data should help rivals tweak their bidding strategies. But DuckDuckGo’s Weinberg said these reports have been pretty useless so far. “We’ve gotten two that are just flat zero,” he said. “We have not seen any real activations or any evidence that any real user has seen the preference menu.”

DuckDuckGo has proposed changes that include scrapping the auction and replacing it with a non-pay-to-play model that includes far more than four search options for consumers.

Weinberg and Schildt Laursen also blame another part of the process for delaying new Android phones that come with the choice screen. Unlike the Russian order, which applied to existing handsets, the EU remedy gives consumers a one-time prompt that will only pop up on new phones.

Android phone manufacturers must update their software and get Google to sign off on the new versions before shipping the latest devices. This means few smartphones even have the choice screen yet. The Covid-19 pandemic has also curbed purchases of new handsets and disrupted some production, adding to delays.

Schildt Laursen said no new Android phones with the choice screen have come out in Denmark. DuckDuckGo and PrivacyWall said the only phone that has been approved and shipped to Europe recently is the Xiaomi Mi 10, which is relatively pricey and not widely available.

The problems with the Android auction echo another EU antitrust order for Google’s shopping search that critics say enriches Google without delivering much real traffic to competing product search firms. While the EU hasn’t weighed in on whether these remedies are effective, it is preparing a legal pathway that would let it demand fast changes to anticompetitive behavior instead of big fines.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s top antitrust official, has voiced frustration about her inability to increase competition in tech markets. During a recent webinar, she blamed the pandemic for the initial poor results of the choice screen remedy, saying “very few Android phones have been shipped due to the Covid crisis.”

More phones and more time may give a clearer picture on whether users will pick another search app when they are given the choice, she argued.

For DuckDuckGo’s Weinberg, though, there’s already one clear lesson for the U.S.: Do it differently.

A choice screen done right “could actually work,” he said.

— With assistance by Peter Chapman

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