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TikTok threatens legal action against Trump's executive order, saying it sets a 'dangerous precedent'

Ryan Browne | CNBC

President Trump's executive order would ban the Chinese social media app from doing business with U.S. firms in 45 days.

TikTok said it was "shocked" by the order, claiming there has been "no due process or adherence to the law."

The Trump administration has also targeted WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging app, with a similar ban.

TikTok threatened legal action against an executive order issued by President Donald Trumpthat would ban the Chinese social media app from doing business with U.S. firms.

The app has been at the center of an escalating technology war between the U.S. and China. Washington had already threatened to ban TikTok in the U.S. due to national security concerns.

It said the app could allow Beijing to spy on U.S. government employees and contractors, collect personal data for blackmail, conduct corporate espionage and be used for "disinformation campaigns" that benefit the Chinese government.

TikTok has denied the allegations, and Beijing has opposed the executive orders, saying it will defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses.

'No due process'

TikTok said it was "shocked" by the order, claiming there has been "no due process or adherence to the law" from the Trump administration.

"This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses' trust in the United States' commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth," TikTok said in a blog post.

"And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly — if not by the Administration, then by the US courts."

TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based internet giant ByteDance, wasn't the only Chinese company targeted by the Trump administration Thursday. Another executive order was directed at WeChat, the popular messaging app owned by Tencent, claiming its data collection could give Beijing access to Americans' personal information. Tencent's share price was down 4.5% in Friday's premarket,

The bans on TikTok and WeChat are set to take effect in 45 days.

Tencent is arguably a more significant target than ByteDance as its WeChat app is used by millions internationally and the company owns or invests in several major U.S. gaming companies including Riot Games, Epic Games and Activision Blizzard, whose share price was down 1.5% in Friday's premarket.

It's still not clear whether the order could affect Tencent's other business dealings.

"We are reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding," the company told CNBC's Eunice Yoon in a statement.

TikTok has become a global cultural phenomenon and is especially popular with teens and young adults, who use it to share short-form videos including everything from lip-syncing to comedy.

Despite being Chinese-owned, TikTok has a U.S. CEO and its largest office is based in Los Angeles. ByteDance operates a separate version of the app for China called Douyin.

Beirut explosion: Anti-government protests break out in city

Quentin Sommerville | BBC News

Protesters clashed with Lebanese security forces at anti-government demonstrations in Beirut on Thursday.

Officers deployed tear gas on dozens of people near parliament.

Demonstrators were angered by Tuesday's devastating blast, which officials say was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely since 2013.

Many in Lebanon say government negligence led to the explosion, which killed at least 137 people and injured about 5,000 others.

The explosion destroyed entire districts in the capital, with homes and businesses reduced to rubble. Dozens of people are still unaccounted for.

The state news agency says 16 people have been taken into custody as part of an investigation announced by the government this week.

Since the disaster two officials have resigned. MP Marwan Hamadeh stepped down on Wednesday, while Lebanon's ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun stepped down on Thursday, saying the catastrophe showed the need for a change in leadership.

How ship's deadly cargo ended up at Beirut port

Earlier on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron also visited the city and said Lebanon needed to see "profound change" from authorities.

He also called for an international investigation into the disaster.

A city of sirens, empty buildings and empty streets

This port was Lebanon's lifeline to the whole world. Something like 80% of the country's grain came through here. The grain silos, which were built way back when, are teetering. Just beyond there I can see a ship listing heavily. I've lived in Beirut for five years and it's almost unrecognisable - it's a city of sirens, of empty buildings, of empty streets.

As I look at the neighbourhood of Gemmayze just behind the port, I can't see a single pane of glass left. Entire roofs have gone - I can see friends' apartments, which are just open to the sky now. All of this area, which was really heavily populated, has been abandoned. No-one is coming back here any time soon.

What's really noticeable as you walk the streets here is that every second person seems to have a broom in their hand. There are clear-up teams everywhere, but it's pretty low tech: tiny teams of people with pans and brushes to clean up an an entire city's devastation.

The thing that really strikes me is how enormously stupid it was, what criminal negligence it took to leave this highly explosive material right in the very heart of this city, within yards of people, their homes, their businesses. And the authorities here knew - they had been warned that these chemicals were dangerous and that they were a great risk to Beirut and Lebanon.

Where did the ammonium nitrate come from?

In 2013 a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhosus, entered Beirut port after suffering technical problems during its journey from Georgia to Mozambique, according to, which deals with shipping-related legal cases.

The Rhosus was inspected, banned from sailing onward and was shortly afterwards abandoned by its owners, sparking several legal claims.

Its cargo included the ammonium nitrate, which is used as a fertiliser and as an explosive.

It was stored in a port warehouse for safety reasons, the report said, and it remained there for the next six years.

There are a lot of rules around storing ammonium nitrate, particularly around fire-proofing, because it is so highly explosive if it comes into contact with flames.

The head of the port and the head of the customs authority said that they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold on to ensure port safety.

Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem told OTV they had been aware that the material was dangerous when a court first ordered it stored in the warehouse, "but not to this degree".

Is there any hope of finding survivors?

Rescuers are continuing to search for people in Beirut, and security forces have sealed off a wide area around the blast site.

On Thursday, two days after the explosion, a French rescue team working in the city said there was still a good chance of finding survivors.

One unnamed rescuer told Mr Macron during his visit that they hoped to find a group of seven or eight people believed to be trapped in a "control room" under the rubble.

Meanwhile, Beirut's hospitals are feeling the strain of so many people needing medical care. Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan said Lebanon's health sector was short of beds, and lacked the equipment necessary to treat the injured and those in critical condition.

Beirut's governor Marwan Aboud also warned that as many as 300,000 people have been left homeless by the blast.

Lebanon also imports most of its food. Because large quantities of grain stored in the port have been destroyed, there are fears that the country will face widespread food insecurity. The future of the port itself is in doubt too.

Was Lebanon already in crisis?

Before this disaster, Lebanon's hospitals were already struggling to cope with a rise in Covid-19 infections.

The country is also going through the worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, and was seeing regular anti-government street protests.

People were having to deal with daily power cuts, a lack of safe drinking water and limited public healthcare.

Memorial Hospital nurse Angela Bilyeu flushes the IV of patient Pedro Cortez in a COVID-19 unit on Friday | Alex Horvath
Memorial Hospital nurse Angela Bilyeu flushes the IV of patient Pedro Cortez in a COVID-19 unit on Friday | Alex Horvath

‘Broken’ coronavirus tracking system leaves California in the dark: ‘We have no idea’

The lack of reliable test result data is disrupting pandemic response efforts, leaving officials in the dark about the spread of COVID-19.

Anita Chabria & Maura Dolan | Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO — The breakdown in California's coronavirus test reporting system is disrupting pandemic response efforts across the state, leaving local officials in the dark about the spread of COVID-19 and blocking the ability of counties to get restrictions lifted until the system is fixed.

State officials have not yet provided details on when fixes will be made to the electronic system, called CalREDIE, that reports coronavirus test results to the state's disease registry system. California, as a result, lacks an accurate count of coronavirus infections, leading health officials to freeze the state's watchlist, with no counties added or removed.

"CalREDIE has broken,” said Peter Beilenson, director of Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services. “The bottom line is we don’t know the real caseload.... We don’t know if we are missing 250 cases [a day] or 50 cases,” he said of his local numbers. “We have no idea.”

The flawed picture has cast into serious doubt California's pandemic outlook. On Wednesday, the state counted 5,300 new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of nearly 13,000 reported about two weeks ago. But the steep drop relies on the underreported data, and health officials remain unsure about the actual caseloads.

The system snafus come amid mixed signs about the state of the pandemic. While some hospitalization rates are down, the state's death toll reached a grim milestone, topping 10,000 deaths. Orange County also reported its single-day highest COVID-19 death toll Thursday, adding 32 deaths for a total of 697. And White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on Wednesday singled out California's Central Valley as a worrisome region.

The lack of reliable infection rate data has led many counties to add disclaimers on their public health websites saying the information is unreliable. The data is also not being published on the state's county data monitoring website, according to the California Department of Public Health. The state has not given a timetable for when the problem might be fixed.

The flawed data has not affected patient care or test results for individual patients, officials said.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, called the problem his department's "top priority" and said a team of dozens had been working "around the clock" to make fixes.

"Having accurate data is critical for public confidence, contact tracing and hospital surge planning. We will not rest until this problem is resolved," Ghaly said in a statement. "All Californians and local public health officials must have accurate data, and we pledge to share a full accounting of when these problems began and their magnitude as soon as we have a clear understanding — and the solutions to address them.”

The California Department of Public Health has directed all laboratories to report positive results directly to county health departments until the problem is resolved. Some county health departments are resorting to counting the testing results by hand to get accurate totals.

Local public health officials and experts are expressing growing frustration with the state's response. Beilenson said state officials had not clarified how extensive the underreporting was or whether the missing data came from a single lab or multiple agencies. Some officials fear that weeks of data may be inaccurate.

UC San Francisco professor Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an expert in infectious diseases, said the inaccurate numbers potentially could affect federal aid because case numbers are examined before help is awarded. Low numbers, he said, could mean fewer federal resources.

“It’s a rationale that the feds can say, ‘Well maybe you don’t need this thing we have, or financial resources, because it doesn’t seem as bad,’” Chin-Hong said.

But one of the most damaging fallouts of the missed data, he said, might be a decline in public trust. Case numbers are one of the measurements used to determine what can open in a county and when social restrictions can be lifted, and the public watches them closely.

“We always put faith in computers, data dumps, and I think having someone discover this glitch makes us wonder: What other glitches are there?” Chin-Hong said. “Data is power, and if data are unreliable, it just makes us feel a little bit queasy.”

The CalREDIE system is relied on by officials to determine infection rates and to decide which counties land on the watchlist, a category that restricts them from opening many indoor activities. School reopenings may also be hindered by the inaccurate numbers. The counties now on the list, including Los Angeles, account for most of the state's population.

Counties must be off the list for 14 days before they can reopen certain businesses. The inaccurate numbers also may affect state waivers that could allow some private and parochial schools to open for in-person classes.

Public health officials also rely on the system to trace contacts of infected people, and without accurate reports, the tracing cannot be done.

Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a news conference Thursday that the glitch has produced an undercount of positive cases in the county. With new information from the laboratories, L.A. County health officials hope to have a more accurate count by next week.

“But it might take us some time,” Davis said.

Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County's health director, has urged residents who test positive to alert county health officials so they can conduct a contact tracing interview and identify those who may have been exposed so they can avoid infecting others.

“We are really worried about the fact that we’re losing some cases, and that may in fact result in some small increases in transmission in the weeks ahead,” she said.

In San Francisco, officials said the data problems are seriously affecting their ability to investigate new cases and trace contacts.

"The city will pause providing updated data on testing, cases, contact tracing metrics and associated key public health indicators until the statewide issue is resolved," San Francisco's COVID-19 Joint Information Center said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Alameda County, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, has decided to offer $1,250 to as many as 7,500 COVID-19 sufferers so they can isolate. The county's supervisors unanimously approved the $10-million pilot program on Tuesday, but when it will start is unclear. The money will go to infected residents who do not receive unemployment or sick leave benefits.

Student suspended after posting photo of crowded hallway.

Georgia high school student Hannah Watters says she was suspended after posting a photo of a crowded hallway at her school. Watters told CNN's Laura Coates that she took the photo "out of concern" amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’

The techie-turned-philanthropist on vaccines, Trump, and why social media is “a poisoned chalice.”

Steven Levy | WIRED

For 20 years, Bill Gates has been easing out of the roles that made him rich and famous—CEO, chief software architect, and chair of Microsoft—and devoting his brainpower and passion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, abandoning earnings calls and antitrust hearings for the metrics of disease eradication and carbon reduction. This year, after he left the Microsoft board, one would have thought he would have relished shedding the spotlight directed at the four CEOs of big tech companies called before Congress.

But as with many of us, 2020 had different plans for Gates. An early Cassandra who warned of our lack of preparedness for a global pandemic, he became one of the most credible figures as his foundation made huge investments in vaccines, treatments, and testing. He also became a target of the plague of misinformation afoot in the land, as logorrheic critics accused him of planning to inject microchips in vaccine recipients. (Fact check: false. In case you were wondering.)

My first interview with Gates was in 1983, and I’ve long lost count of how many times I’ve spoken to him since. He’s yelled at me (more in the earlier years) and made me laugh (more in the latter years). But I’ve never looked forward to speaking to him more than in our year of Covid. We connected on Wednesday, remotely of course. In discussing our country’s failed responses, his issues with his friend Mark Zuckerberg’s social networks, and the innovations that might help us out of this mess, Gates did not disappoint. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WIRED: You have been warning us about a global pandemic for years. Now that it has happened just as you predicted, are you disappointed with the performance of the United States?

Bill Gates: Yeah. There’s three time periods, all of which have disappointments. There is 2015 until this particular pandemic hit. If we had built up the diagnostic, therapeutic, and vaccine platforms, and if we’d done the simulations to understand what the key steps were, we’d be dramatically better off. Then there’s the time period of the first few months of the pandemic, when the US actually made it harder for the commercial testing companies to get their tests approved, the CDC had this very low volume test that didn’t work at first, and they weren’t letting people test. The travel ban came too late, and it was too narrow to do anything. Then, after the first few months, eventually we figured out about masks, and that leadership is important.

So you’re disappointed, but are you surprised?

I’m surprised at the US situation because the smartest people on epidemiology in the world, by a lot, are at the CDC. I would have expected them to do better. You would expect the CDC to be the most visible, not the White House or even Anthony Fauci. But they haven’t been the face of the epidemic. They are trained to communicate and not try to panic people but get people to take things seriously. They have basically been muzzled since the beginning. We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House a bunch of times. Now they say, “Look, we’re doing a great job on testing, we don’t want to talk to you.” Even the simplest things, which would greatly improve this system, they feel would be admitting there is some imperfection and so they are not interested.

Do you think it’s the agencies that fell down or just the leadership at the top, the White House?

We can do the postmortem at some point. We still have a pandemic going on, and we should focus on that. The White House didn’t allow the CDC to do its job after March. There was a window where they were engaged, but then the White House didn’t let them do that. So the variance between the US and other countries isn’t that first period, it’s the subsequent period where the messages—the opening up, the leadership on masks, those things—are not the CDC’s fault. They said not to open back up; they said that leadership has to be a model of face mask usage. I think they have done a good job since April, but we haven’t had the benefit of it.

At this point, are you optimistic?

Yes. You have to admit there’s been trillions of dollars of economic damage done and a lot of debts, but the innovation pipeline on scaling up diagnostics, on new therapeutics, on vaccines is actually quite impressive. And that makes me feel like, for the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021, and for the world at large by the end of 2022. That is only because of the scale of the innovation that’s taking place. Now whenever we get this done, we will have lost many years in malaria and polio and HIV and the indebtedness of countries of all sizes and instability. It’ll take you years beyond that before you’d even get back to where you were at the start of 2020. It’s not World War I or World War II, but it is in that order of magnitude as a negative shock to the system.

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In March it was unimaginable that you’d be giving us that timeline and saying it’s great.

Well it’s because of innovation that you don’t have to contemplate an even sadder statement, which is this thing will be raging for five years until natural immunity is our only hope.

Let’s talk vaccines, which your foundation is investing in. Is there anything that’s shaping up relatively quickly that could be safe and effective?

Before the epidemic came, we saw huge potential in the RNA vaccines—Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and CureVac. Right now, because of the way you manufacture them, and the difficulty of scaling up, they are more likely—if they are helpful—to help in the rich countries. They won’t be the low-cost, scalable solution for the world at large. There you’d look more at AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. This disease, from both the animal data and the phase 1 data, seems to be very vaccine preventable. There are questions still. It will take us awhile to figure out the duration [of protection], and the efficacy in elderly, although we think that’s going to be quite good. Are there any side effects, which you really have to get out in those large phase 3 groups and even after that through lots of monitoring to see if there are any autoimmune diseases or conditions that the vaccine could interact with in a deleterious fashion.

Are you concerned that in our rush to get a vaccine we are going to approve something that isn’t safe and effective?

Yeah. In China and Russia they are moving full speed ahead. I bet there’ll be some vaccines that will get out to lots of patients without the full regulatory review somewhere in the world. We probably need three or four months, no matter what, of phase 3 data, just to look for side effects. The FDA, to their credit, at least so far, is sticking to requiring proof of efficacy. So far they have behaved very professionally despite the political pressure. There may be pressure, but people are saying no, make sure that that’s not allowed. The irony is that this is a president who is a vaccine skeptic. Every meeting I have with him he is like, “Hey, I don’t know about vaccines, and you have to meet with this guy Robert Kennedy Jr. who hates vaccines and spreads crazy stuff about them.”

Wasn’t Kennedy Jr. talking about you using vaccines to implant chips into people?

Yeah, you’re right. He, Roger Stone, Laura Ingraham. They do it in this kind of way: “I’ve heard lots of people say X, Y, Z.” That’s kind of Trumpish plausible deniability. Anyway, there was a meeting where Francis Collins, Tony Fauci, and I had to [attend], and they had no data about anything. When we would say, “But wait a minute, that’s not real data,” they’d say, “Look, Trump told you you have to sit and listen, so just shut up and listen anyway.” So it’s a bit ironic that the president is now trying to have some benefit from a vaccine.

What goes through your head when you’re in a meeting hearing misinformation, and the President of the United States wants you to keep your mouth shut?

That was a bit strange. I haven’t met directly with the president since March of 2018. I made it clear I’m glad to talk to him about the epidemic anytime. And I have talked to Debbie Birx, I’ve talked to Pence, I’ve talked to Mnuchin, Pompeo, particularly on the issue of, Is the US showing up in terms of providing money to procure the vaccine for the developing countries? There have been lots of meetings, but we haven’t been able to get the US to show up. It’s very important to be able to tell the vaccine companies to build extra factories for the billions of doses, that there is procurement money to buy those for the marginal cost. So in this supplemental bill, I’m calling everyone I can to get 4 billion through GAVI for vaccines and 4 billion through a global fund for therapeutics. That’s less than 1 percent to the bill, but in terms of saving lives and getting us back to normal, that under 1 percent is by far the most important thing if we can get it in there.

Speaking of therapeutics, if you were in the hospital and you have the disease and you’re looking over the doctor’s shoulder, what treatment are you going to ask for?

Remdesivir. Sadly the trials in the US have been so chaotic that the actual proven effect is kind of small. Potentially the effect is much larger than that. It’s insane how confused the trials here in the US have been. The supply of that is going up in the US; it will be quite available for the next few months. Also dexamethasone—it’s actually a fairly cheap drug—that’s for late-stage disease.

I’m assuming you’re not going to have trouble paying for it, Bill, so you could ask for anything.

Well, I don’t want special treatment, so that’s a tricky thing. Other antivirals are two to three months away. Antibodies are two to three months away. We’ve had about a factor-of-two improvement in hospital outcomes already, and that’s with just remdesivir and dexamethasone. These other things will be additive to that.

You helped fund a Covid diagnostic testing program in Seattle that got quicker results, and it wasn’t so intrusive. The FDA put it on pause. What happened?

There’s this thing where the health worker jams the deep turbinate, in the back of your nose, which actually hurts and makes you sneeze on the healthy worker. We showed that the quality of the results can be equivalent if you just put a self-test in the tip of your nose with a cotton swab. The FDA made us jump through some hoops to prove that you didn’t need to refrigerate the result, that it could go back in a dry plastic bag, and so on. So the delay there was just normal double checking, maybe overly careful but not based on some political angle. Because of what we have done at FDA, you can buy these cheaper swabs that are available by the billions. So anybody who’s using the deep turbinate now is just out of date. It’s a mistake, because it slows things down.

But people aren’t getting their tests back quickly enough.

Well, that’s just stupidity. The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted. If you don’t care how late the date is and you reimburse at the same level, of course they’re going to take every customer. Because they are making ridiculous money, and it’s mostly rich people that are getting access to that. You have to have the reimbursement system pay a little bit extra for 24 hours, pay the normal fee for 48 hours, and pay nothing [if it isn’t done by then]. And they will fix it overnight.

Why don’t we just do that?

Because the federal government sets that reimbursement system. When we tell them to change it they say, “As far as we can tell, we’re just doing a great job, it’s amazing!” Here we are, this is August. We are the only country in the world where we waste the most money on tests. Fix the reimbursement. Set up the CDC website. But I have been on that kick, and people are tired of listening to me.

As someone who has built your life on science and logic, I’m curious what you think when you see so many people signing onto this anti-science view of the world.

Well, strangely, I’m involved in almost everything that anti-science is fighting. I’m involved with climate change, GMOs, and vaccines. The irony is that it’s digital social media that allows this kind of titillating, oversimplistic explanation of, “OK, there’s just an evil person, and that explains all of this.” And when you have [posts] encrypted, there is no way to know what it is. I personally believe government should not allow those types of lies or fraud or child pornography [to be hidden with encryption like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger].

Well, you’re friends with Mark Zuckerberg. Have you talked to him about this?

After I said this publicly, he sent me mail. I like Mark, I think he’s got very good values, but he and I do disagree on the trade-offs involved there. The lies are so titillating you have to be able to see them and at least slow them down. Like that video where, what do they call her, the sperm woman? That got over 10 million views! [Note: It was more than 20 million.] Well how good are these guys at blocking things, where once something got the 10 million views and everybody was talking about it, they didn’t delete the link or the searchability? So it was meaningless. They claim, “Oh, now we don’t have it.” What effect did that have? Anybody can go watch that thing! So I am a little bit at odds with the way that these conspiracy theories spread, many of which are anti-vaccine things. We give literally tens of billions for vaccines to save lives, then people turn around saying, “No, we’re trying to make money and we’re trying to end lives.” That’s kind of a wild inversion of what our values are and what our track record is.

As you are the technology adviser to Microsoft, I think you can look forward in a few months to fighting this battle yourself when the company owns TikTok.

Yeah, my critique of dance moves will be fantastically value-added for them.

TikTok is more than just dance moves. There’s political content.

I know, I’m kidding. You’re right. Who knows what’s going to happen with that deal. But yes, it’s a poison chalice. Being big in the social media business is no simple game, like the encryption issue.

So are you wary of Microsoft getting into that game?

I mean, this may sound self-serving, but I think that the game being more competitive is probably a good thing. But having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.

Do you understand what rule or regulation the president is invoking to demand that TikTok sell to an American company and then take a cut of the sales price?

I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange. The cut thing, that’s doubly strange. Anyway, Microsoft will have to deal with all of that.

You have been very cautious in staying away from the political arena. But the issues you care most about—public health and climate change—have had huge setbacks because of who leads the country. Are you reconsidering spending on political change?

The foundation needs to be bipartisan. Whoever gets elected in the US, we are going to want to work with them. We do care a lot about competence, and hopefully voters will take into account how this administration has done at picking competent people and should that weigh into their vote. But there’s going to be plenty of money on both sides of this election, and I don’t like diverting money to political things. Even though the pandemic has made it pretty clear we should expect better, there’s other people who will put their time into the campaigning piece.

Did you have deja vu last week when those tech CEOs testified remotely before Congress?

Yeah. I had a whole committee attacking me, and they had four at a time. I mean, Jesus Christ, what’s the Congress coming to? If you want to give a guy a hard time, give him at least a whole day that he has to sit there on the hot seat by himself! And they didn’t even have to get on a plane!

Do you think the antitrust concerns are the same as when Microsoft was under the gun, or has the landscape changed?

Even without antitrust rules, tech does tend to be quite competitive. And even though in the short run you don’t think it’s going to dislodge people, there will be changes that will keep bringing prices down. But there are a lot of valid issues, and if you’re super-successful, the pleasure of going in front of the Congress comes with the territory.

How has your life changed living under the pandemic?

I used to travel a lot. If I wanted to see President Macron and say, “Hey, give money for the coronavirus vaccine,” to really show I’m serious I’d go there. Now, we had a GAVI replenishment summit where I just sat at home and got up a little early. I am able to get a lot done. My kids are home more than I thought they would be, which at least for me is a nice thing. I’m microwaving more food. I’m getting fairly good at it. The pandemic sadly is less painful for those who were better off before the pandemic.

Do you have a go-to mask you use?

No, I use a pretty ugly normal mask. I change it every day. Maybe I should get a designer mask or something creative, but I just use this surgical-looking mask.

Facebook slams Apple’s App Store policies, launches Facebook Gaming on iOS without games

Facebook is not happy with the months of rejections it has faced

Tom Warren | The Verge

Facebook is joining Microsoft in condemning Apple’s App Store policies today. The social media company is launching its Facebook Gaming app for iOS — primarily an app used to watch streamers play video games — but has had to remove the app’s mini games feature to pass Apple’s strict App Store approval process. Facebook isn’t happy about the compromise.

“Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app — meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer in a press statement given to The Verge. “We’re staying focused on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month — whether Apple allows it in a standalone app or not.”

Facebook says it has had the Facebook Gaming app rejected multiple times by Apple in recent months. The company says Apple has cited App Store guideline 4.7 to justify the rejections, claiming the primary purpose of the Facebook Gaming app is to play games. Facebook says it shared usage data from its Android Facebook Gaming app that showed 95 percent of activity is watching streams, but this didn’t change Apple’s stance.

Apple unveiled an appeal process for situations like this at WWDC back in June, but Facebook says it tried this and failed to convince Apple to overturn its decision. “We even appealed the guideline under the new app review process announced at WWDC,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “We did not receive a response.”

Facebook has now been forced to give up and remove games entirely from the standalone app launching on iOS today. The Facebook Gaming app is primarily used to watch streams of games, much like Twitch is used on both iOS and Android. But on Android, the app also includes a number of mini games from Facebook’s Instant Games platform. That’s what Apple won’t allow.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has run into App Store issues, either. “Even on the main Facebook app and Messenger, we’ve been forced to bury Instant Games for years on iOS,” explains Facebook Gaming chief Vivek Sharma in a statement to The Verge. “This is shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and devs and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats, like cloud gaming.”

Facebook Gaming on iOS lacks its Instant Games.
Facebook Gaming on iOS lacks its Instant Games.
Microsoft’s xCloud service.
Microsoft’s xCloud service.

Apple is facing growing criticism from rivals and the gaming industry to loosen its App Store restrictions. Microsoft was forced to cut its xCloud iOS testing earlier this week, after App Store policies have been preventing the company from launching the app for months. Microsoft took the unusual decision to condemn Apple yesterday, saying “Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.”

Apple has defended its decision to block cloud gaming services like xCloud, Stadia, and GeForce Now from the App Store. “Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search,” said an Apple spokesperson in a statement yesterday.

Apple’s argument is that the company can’t individually review games offered on streaming services, but the company doesn’t seem to have the same issues with services like Netflix or YouTube that stream millions of videos, TV shows, and movies to Apple’s iOS devices that Apple can’t possibly review.

Apple’s latest weak App Store excuse comes just months after the company was embroiled in a bitter battle over the new Hey email app. Apple eventually approved the app after the initial rejection drew widespread condemnation from lawmakers and developers. Apple is part of a number of US tech companies currently facing potential antitrust action. The EU has also opened up a formal antitrust investigation into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay practices. With Microsoft and Facebook openly criticizing Apple, the company is bound to face even more questions over its App Store policies in the months ahead.

In Colombia, 'climate-smart' villages show how the future of farming could look.

Anmar Frangoul | CNBC

Colombia produces everything from coffee and sugarcane to bananas, cocoa and rice.

In one part of the country, innovative techniques and practices are helping people to grow a range of produce.

A country of vivid beauty, Colombia is home to vast swathes of fertile land producing everything from coffee and sugarcane to bananas, cocoa and rice.

In Cauca, a department in the southwest of the country, efforts are underway to develop farming practices that it's hoped will be both sustainable and resilient to future challenges.

Ana María Loboguerrero is head of global policy research at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. One of the schemes she's involved in is the Cauca Climate-Smart Village project.

According to CGIAR – a "global agricultural innovation network" that's received funding from organizations including the European Commission, African Development Bank and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – farmers in the area covered by the initiative are faced with a number of issues including "the impacts of climate variability and climate change." This can in turn hit crop productivity, cause soil degradation and hamper access to water, it adds.

Speaking to CNBC's "Sustainable Energy," Loboguerrero said the project was co-generating evidence with farmers on "the practices, the technologies, that can help us to increase productivity and food security, that can help us to increase adaptation to climate change and variability and that can help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Loboguerrero stated that information on temperature and precipitation was being collected, while a low-cost weather station network was also being used.

"And then we use this information from what we call the 'agro-climatic forecasts', that tell us what is going to happen with respect to precipitation, with respect to temperature, humidity, in the following three months," she added.

"And using this information, the farmers make better decisions in terms of when to plant, which varieties to use, when to apply the fertilizers. They are able to work with (the) climate."

Lilian Torres Erazo is one of the farmers involved in the project, which has helped her to become self-sufficient by growing cilantro, onion, peppers and lettuce. "It's a huge change," she said. "We consume the food that we grow," she added.

"We used to buy our food at the supermarket or at the fruit and veg stall. Now, we go to the fruit and veg stall to sell and what we can't sell, we bring home for our own consumption."

There is also a social aspect to the project. "Men have understood that women are able to do really good things in terms of generating more income," Loboguerrero said. "They are becoming more empowered in terms of the household, they have more freedom and they are feeling that they are doing really good things for the community."

The creation of more opportunities for young people is another feature of schemes like the one in Cauca.

Andrew Jarvis, decision and policy analysis research area director at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, told CNBC that 30 "climate smart villages" had been introduced to 19 countries around the world.

Jarvis added that the team was looking at how rural areas could be re-invigorated so that they were attractive, "so that farmers do want their children to continue in farming."

Focusing on Colombia and the project in Cauca, Loboguerrero noted how, initially, children there did not want to learn about vegetables. Instead, they dreamed of going to the nearest city, Popayan, to work in roles like that of a taxi driver.

"We don't have to force young people to stay here but we have to bring the opportunities, we have to speak a language that they understand and it's technology, it's digital agriculture, it's big data," she added.

"So, we are bringing this and it's amazing how the dynamics have changed: they want to study careers related to agronomy, related to environmental engineering so that they don't have to run away from their lands."

The work being carried out by Loboguerrero, her colleagues and the farmers in Cauca shows how projects that proactively involve local people can have an impact across many facets of society.

Thousands of miles away, in Brittany, France, Yann Laurans, biodiversity and ecosystems program director at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, was asked whether small-scale initiatives should be encouraged in order to change people's mindsets.

"Definitely," he replied. "Working on nature-based solutions means working with people which means you have to ask them what they think: How they can produce, how they can manage space, which takes time," he added. "And that's why small projects, small-scale projects, are always better."

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