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The latest news from Business Insider

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    huawei

    • Wang Weijing, an executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, has been fired following his charges of espionage in Poland.
    • It's the second arrest of a Huawei executive in two months after Meng Wanzhou, the company's chief financial officer and its founder's daughter, was arrested for violating US sanctions in conducting business with Iran.
    • The US has warned that Huawei could be used in spying efforts from China. 

    HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei said on Saturday it had terminated the employment of a Chinese worker arrested on spying allegations in Poland.

    Polish authorities on Friday arrested Wang Weijing and a former Polish security official on spying allegations, a move that could fuel Western security concerns about the telecoms equipment maker.

    Read more: A 2nd Huawei executive has been arrested — this time in Poland on suspicion of spying for the Chinese government

    Huawei said in a statement that its employee's alleged actions "have no relation to the company". The company added that the decision was made as the incident has brought the company into disrepute.

    Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and U.S.-led allegations that its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying.

    (Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

    SEE ALSO: Huawei Spies For China, Says Former NSA And CIA Chief Michael Hayden

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Tesla Shanghai

    • The global auto industry is ruthlessly evaluating weak markets and killing off unpopular products while Tesla is expanding in China.
    • Tesla doesn't have much of a choice — if it doesn't take the risk now, it won't be able to dive in amid a global auto sales downturn.
    • The contrast highlight the biggest difference between Tesla's immature business and car companies that are over a hundred years old.

    The contrast was telling: The same week that Tesla CEO Elon Musk attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Gigafactory in Shanghai, China, Ford announced that it would substantially restructure its European operations and, ominously, review its situation in Russia, implying that it might follow General Motors in exiting that market.

    There was also continuing chatter around a possible Ford-VW alliance — although some of the prospective bloom of such a partnership was diminished by the ongoing incarceration in Japan of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, disgraced architect of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

    The global auto industry is preparing to play defense. In the US, sales topped 17 million new vehicles in 2018 for an unprecedented fourth straight year, and although there are no major signs of a big downturn in 2019, carmakers are getting ready. The lessons of the financial crisis, when a bloated GM and a crippled Chrysler both went bankrupt, have been learned. 

    Read more: Tesla's $2,000 price cut doesn't mean it has a demand problem

    Before 2009, big car companies would count on brief recessions and robust recoveries, reliably stalling on difficult strategic decisions. But no more. GM has left Russia and Europe, ended production in Australia, and streamlined in South Korea, and it's now winding down underperforming passenger cars in the US and preparing to idle factories. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got out of passenger cars to focus on SUVs and pickup two years ago. And Ford ousted CEO Mark Fields in 2017, bringing on Jim Hackett, who has concentrated on improving what he calls Ford's business "fitness."

    Make the tough calls when times are good

    mary barra

    The arguments in favor of these moves aren't complicated: when times are good and profits are rolling in, as they have been for years, make the tough calls. Then batten down the hatches when the bad weather sets in, as it always does in the highly cyclical car business.

    Automakers might be overreacting, but they are gazing out at alarming developments. The biggest of these is an economic slowdown in China, where GM, for example, is now selling more cars than in the US. The China market has grown so rapidly that it's now the world's largest — but it hasn't really endured a major decline of the sort that car companies in the US and Europe have negotiated many times over a hundred-plus years.

    So Ford, GM, Fiat-Chrysler, the Japanese, and the Germans, and the South Koreans are all wisely de-risking.

    Tesla, meanwhile, is performing its traditional role — if a 15-year-old company can have traditions — of gobbling up risk, front-running it while the rest of the industry is happy to sit on the sidelines.

    The Shanghai Gigafactory is a perfect example. It will be the first plant built by a Western carmaker that won't be a joint venture with a Chinese carmaker. China has required foreign automakers to enter joint ventures since the 1990s, and while that might sound bad, in practice it's been extremely effective for both sides and has provided massive risk mitigation for US and European companies. 

    Think about it: You trade half the ownership for a 50% reduction in overall risk. Not a bad deal.

    Shanghai could be a turning point for Tesla

    tesla shanghai

    Musk and Tesla aren't into sharing, so their Shanghai factory will be wholly Tesla-owned. This is possible because China has carved out a joint-venture exception for all-electric automakers. And, of course, Tesla sees what everybody else does: a growing China market versus a tapped-out Western one. Geopolitics — tariffs and the vagaries of global shipping costs — makes for extreme price instability for Teslas delivered in China, so the company wants to build where it sells.

    On one hand, the Shanghai factory could signal a maturation turning point for Tesla. For starters, the company will likely pay for it with debt — a big positive, as the factory will be built with expensive 2019 money (Ford continues to operate plants that were built with relatively cheap early-20th-century money), but that investment will be discounted over the decades thanks to the magic power of inflation. 

    Tesla might also learn from the debacle of its Model 3 roll-out — an exercise in frustrated wheel-reinventing — and adopt a standard production system in Shanghai, aiming to deliver vehicles rather than undertake yet another experiment in manufacturing. The latter would obviously layer on the already risky move of building a new factory when the rest of the industry is closing them.

    For some time now, I've argued that although Tesla makes some fantastic vehicles, its real product is risk. The traditional car business doesn't create risk (it does stumble into it every few decades, but that is due largely to the requirement that carmakers serve gigantic, marginally profitable worldwide transportation demand). That's why Tesla has a bigger market cap than GM while selling over nine million fewer cars in 2018. For investors, risk equals payout, and that applies to longs and short-sellers. 

    Now, you could step back from all this and maintain that Tesla is making a dumb move by committing billions to a new factory. What the company should do is consolidate its gains and stabilize the core business.

    Unfortunately, Tesla can't really afford to wait out a downturn and defer its expansion. If and when the China market starts to grow robustly again, Tesla wants to be well-established in the country. The lesson for carmakers that have tried to play catch-up in China is that it's both costly and time-consuming.

    Besides, where would Tesla be without risk? You have to be true to your principles — and risk is what's made Tesla the first successful new car company to arrive in decades.

    SEE ALSO: Elon Musk may be trying to cut a deal with China that could give it a huge advantage, according to a Tesla analyst

    FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What would happen if Elon Musk left Tesla


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    novartis

    • A one-time treatment for a devastating rare disease could be paid for with an installment plan as soon as this summer in Massachusetts. 
    • Novartis's AveXis unit is involved in the discussions. Its gene therapy could cost up to $5 million per treatment. 
    • Organizers hope the plan will ensure patients can access a potentially life-changing treatment.
    • Business Insider is the first to report on the discussions and the interest from AveXis. 

    In recent years, no treatments were even available for the rare, devastating disease known as spinal muscular atrophy.

    Now, in a matter of months, an experimental one-time therapy designed to address the disease's underlying genetic cause could treat the disorder. First though, someone has to pay for its potential multimillion-dollar pricetag. 

    A new effort is underway in Massachusetts to figure out how to do that. The idea is to let health insurers pay for the treatment over several years. If it succeeds, organizers hope that it could prove to be a viable model for the entire US. 

    Novartis's AveXis unit, which makes the gene therapy, Zolgensma, and has suggested a price tag of up to $5 million could be appropriate, is in talks to participate. Business Insider is the first to report both the plan and interest from Novartis's AveXis. 

    Americans have long paid for big-ticket items like houses and cars in a similar manner. But the plan — if it is finalized — would mark one of the first such approaches for a medicine. And Novartis would only receive each of its payment if the treatment is effective.

    Paying for drugs on an installment plan

    "Think of it as installment plan that’s then tied to how well the therapy works. This would be a car loan but you’ve still got to see if the car is going to work,"Mark Trusheim, strategic director of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation's NEWDIGS program, told Business Insider.

    NEWDIGS brings organizations together to discuss how the US health system will be able to pay for costly cures, and the Massachusetts initiative came out of that, Trusheim said.

    That work has become increasingly important as more gene therapies are likely to become available in coming years for different diseases, according to experts interviewed for this story. Gene therapies are typically administered in a single treatment and can have very high price tags compared to other types of pharmaceuticals. That could impose massive costs and challenges for an unprepared health system

    Read more:From the gene therapy that spurred a $9 billion acquisition to a CBD medication for rare types of childhood epilepsy, here are the 12 promising drugs to watch in 2019

    Doing the unthinkable, at an exceptional price

    Gene therapy is a cutting-edge technology with the potential to cure diseases by tinkering with the body's genetic material. Drugmakers have cited the value these new products could bring to patients and the medical system to justify their high prices.

    Spinal muscular atrophy is a rare genetic condition that affects muscle movement in children and is the leading genetic cause of mortality in infants.

    About 10,000 to 25,000 individuals in the U.S. are thought to have SMA, according to the SMA Foundation. But far fewer individuals would likely be treated with Zolgensma, since it's thought that only newborns would be eligible.

    In Massachusetts, only one or two dozen patients are expected each year at most, according to Trusheim. A US approval decision Zolgensma, is expected in May, and Novartis isn't likely to release a precise price tag until then.

    An independent group that evaluates drug prices has said the treatment could merit a price of $1.6 million to $5 million, Novartis Pharmaceuticals CEO Paul Hudson told Business Insider this week, noting that the cost of ventilators and another expensive therapy for the rare disease over a five-year period were, in total, comparable.

    AveXis plans to explore `creative' ways to get paid for its new treatment

    Hudson heads up the business that oversees AveXis's SMA gene therapy. AveXis would not comment specifically about its participation in the Massachusetts program, but said in a statement that gene therapies require new approaches in the US health system.

    "Our objective is to ensure patients get access to this therapy, so we can make a meaningful difference in their lives," the AveXis statement said. "We are working closely with payers to ensure we establish appropriate prices reflecting the value of gene therapy and explore creative options for payers, including installment payment options, as well as outcomes-based arrangements."

    As the Massachusetts pilot currently stands, the price of Zolgensma would be paid by health insurers in five annual installments, spread out over four years. It is similar to a plan unveiled by biotech Bluebird Bio earlier this week, MIT's Trusheim said. 

    Read more:A biotech is proposing a plan to pay for its pricey rare-disease treatment the same way you'd buy a TV or dishwasher

    The program is starting with the Novartis product, but intends to add other gene therapies over time. Many but not all health insurers in Massachusetts are involved in the discussions, Trusheim said, and others could eventually join. Its organizers hope to launch it by this summer, and they believe they have addressed many of the challenges of this type of approach. 

    'We shouldn't let cost get in the way'

    One crucial challenge for these types of installment plans is what happens when patients switch health insurers. In this case, the insurers that intend to participate in the Massachusetts pilot have agreed to pick up the remaining payments left on the installment plan.

    "If you believe these are likely to be life-changing to the people who need them, then we shouldn't let cost get in the way," Dr. Michael Sherman, chief medical officer of the nonprofit health insurer Harvard Pilgrim, told Business Insider. If the program gets off the ground, Harvard Pilgrim intends to be a part of it, he said. 

    The planners are still working out other details. For instance, even though the payment structure and performance metrics for the gene therapy would be the same across insurers, each individual health plan would negotiate its own price for Zolgensma.

    Insurers will also have to work out with Novartis what happens if a patient moves to another state. That might include continuing to make the payments or potentially making a one-time exit payment.

    Another challenge is a legal requirement that the government Medicaid program get the "best price" on a drug. That could complicate this type of installment plan, since a failed treatment in which only one installment is paid could be interpreted as violating that "best price" guarantee. 

    Read more: Bill Gates warns that nobody is paying attention to gene editing, a new technology that could make inequality even worse

    Because spinal muscular atrophy is so rare, health insurers haven't expressed concerns about Zolgensma's price tag specifically, Hudson told Business Insider this week. Instead, they'd like the flexibility to pay in installments if needed, according to Hudson. 

    "What they're not saying is, 'We're worried about the price.' What they are saying is, 'We may have concerns about staging payments,'" Hudson said. 

    Additional reporting by Lydia Ramsey

    Read more about pharmaceutical innovation: 

    The CEO of $230 billion pharma giant Novartis explains why he's not scared of buying biotechs at an earlier — and riskier — stage

    Big drugmakers are sitting on billions of cash — and top pharma executives are hinting about big M&A to come in 2019

    One of the biggest drugmakers in the world thinks it has 26 billion-dollar drugs in the pipeline — here's what they aim to treat

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Saturn is officially losing its rings — and they're disappearing much faster than scientists had anticipated


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    salesforce tower san francisco marc benioff 5277

    • Marc Benioff struggled in deciding whether or not to keep Salesforce's contract with the Customs Border Patrol (CBP) after employee backlash last June, according to a recent interview with CNBC
    • "[Employees] ask me questions I don't have the answer to and I don't have the authority or understanding to be able to opine on," Benioff said. 
    • Ultimately, Benioff decided to keep the contract in place, though he vowed that in the future, an internal team focused on ethics would make these types of judgment calls. 
    • Political organizing groups who oppose the CBP contract tell Business Insider that they are still are not satisfied. 

    Government agencies are attractive customers to Silicon Valley tech companies peddling software and services that promise to modernize the cogs of bureaucracy. 

    But in an age of divisive public policy and rising employee activism, doing business with the government is not the slam dunk business deal it once was.

    For Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, this reality hit hard last year, leaving the the industry's most outspoken champion of progressive causes on the defensive. 

    Benioff struggled with the decision to work with the Customs Border Patrol throughout last summer, he said in a recent interview with CNBC. And even after Benioff took steps to ensure that Salesforce is better prepared to address thorny issues like this in the future, the experience has left its mark on the company.

    "What's the right thing to do here?"

    In June, more than 650 Salesforce employees sent an email to Benioff criticizing the company's contract with the Customs Border Patrol (CBP).  "Given the inhuman separation from their parents currently taking place at the border, we believe that our core value of Equality is at stake and that Salesforce should re-examine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices," the letter said. 

    The Salesforce founder and co-CEO ultimately decided his company would keep its contract with the CBP claiming that his company's software was not used to separate families— though he"wrestled" with the judgment call for most of the last summer, according to a CNBC interview with Benioff

    "[Employees] ask me questions I don't have the answer to and I don't have the authority or understanding to be able to opine on," Benioff said in the interview. 

    Read more:Salesforce is hiring its first Chief Ethical and Humane Use officer to make sure its artificial intelligence isn't used for evil

    After his decision, Benioff vowed never to put himself in that situation again. "I said I need a team that I can pivot to say, 'What is the right thing to do here?' And I'm like, it's crazy that we don't have a team like this," he said. 

    salesforce protest border patrol san francisco 5

    According to the interview, Benioff tasked Salesforce's Chief Equality Officer, Tony Prophet, with forming an internal team to own difficult ethics questions as they arise. Six months later, the group was complete with the hiring of Paula Goldman, the company's first chief ethical and humane use officer. 

    "It takes political clarity"

    The hiring of a chief ethical officer and the offloading of Benioff's decision making in ethically-hairy situations, however, did not satisfy those who continue to oppose Salesforce's contract with the CBP, like the political organizing group Business Insider spoke to named Mijente

    Mijente met with Tony Prophet and other Salesforce executives in an off-the-record meeting at Salesforce Tower last November, but ultimately, their demands to cancel the contract were not met.

    "I think Salesforce is calculating the political risks of it," Mijente member Jacinta Gonzalez said in a recent interview with Business Insider. "I think even though they know that it's wrong, even though they feel the pressure, I think standing up to the government in these times takes courage. And it takes political clarity. And I think they're struggling with that decision." 

     

    A Salesforce spokesperson told Business Insider: "We believe in a multi-stakeholder dialogue and that's why we met with Mijente to hear their concerns." 

    Benioff's strife over the CBP contract, highlights the struggle tech companies face as they balance working with the government, which is an important part of their business, with their progressive, Silicon Valley ethos. Google, for instance, has been providing AI technology to the Pentagon but decided to not renew its contract after an internal uproar last March.

    "You don't want to be a CEO or co-CEO and all of the sudden you get a phone call, 'I don't agree with your ethics, I'm leaving,'" Benioff told CNBC. "I could not imagine if that actually happened. I'd be very upset."

    SEE ALSO: Google clamped down on security by banning contractors and temp workers from its internal Groups forums, and it's raising new workplace problems

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: British Airways has a $13 million flight simulator that taught us how to take off, fly, and land an airplane


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    want to work

    • Parts of the federal government have been shut down since late December.
    • It's created a spate of risks in the largest economy in the world.
    • For example, employment could fall for the first time since 2010.

    A partial shutdown of the federal government entered its fourth week Saturday, making it the longest on record. From jobs to food stamps, an impasse over border security has put large swaths of the economy in jeopardy.

    "A short-term shutdown does not usually have a big economic effect," said Donald Moynihan, chair of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. "But at this point we are looking at the longest shutdown in the modern era. We should be worried."

    Growth is expected to slip

    Business activity was already expected to expand at a slower rate in coming months. But economists have further lowered estimates for quarterly gross domestic product, or the total value of the nation's goods and services, since the shutdown began.

    Federal workers missed paychecks that were due this week, a development that will complicate the lives of more than 800,000 and that threatens to weigh on gross domestic product.

    Congress approved a bill Friday that ensures back pay for furloughed employees, but it must still be signed into law and would not be distributed until after the shutdown ends. In the meantime, reduced income will weigh on consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic activity.

    "Maybe you can make up for one missed paycheck," said Brad Setser, who served as a White House and Treasury Department economist in the Obama administration. "But the longer the shutdown goes on, the harder it is for the government workforce to keep up with spending."

    Lower consumption will also hit the private sector, which faces its own direct risks from the shutdown. Uncertainty can delay investment. A lack of regulatory oversight can chip away at consumer confidence. And those who rely on federal services can lose customers.

    "Hotels may start seeing fewer customers who don't want to spend their time in trash-strewn national parks, or dealing with long lines at airports," Moynihan said. "If you shut down one sector of the economy, you quickly learn how connected it is to other parts."

    Employment could fall for the first time since 2010

    With about 380,000 workers placed on unpaid leave while a series of government agencies are closed, the Wall Street Journal reported the shutdown could upend the longest stretch of continuous job growth in history.

    Since monthly payroll growth has averaged at about 215,000 over the past five years, the shutdown could in January cause overall employment to fall for the first time in 99 months.

    The disruption is also making it more difficult to keep an eye on the labor market. For instance, economists don't know why applications for unemployment benefits fell significantly more than expected this week.

    "We don’t know if the consensus was high because forecasters believe that the trend in claims has risen, or because they feared a big hit from the government shutdown," Ian Sheperdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in an email. "The uncertainty means that it probably would be sensible to view these numbers as an unreliable guide to the underlying pace of layoffs."

    A lapse in data has created uncertainty

    With large portions of the Department of Commerce closed, some information on the state of the economy won't be released during the shutdown. Many economists have forecast a recession could begin within the next two years, and a lack of data could fan fears about the possibility of a crisis.

    It will also become more difficult for Americans to understand what's happening in the economy, putting businesses at a disadvantage. Farmers who have already been reeling from the US-China trade war, for instance, are working without key figures on monthly international shipments.

    "Trade statistics weren’t going to turn things," said William Tyner, an agricultural economist at Purdue University. "But data is certainly better than no data. What farmers are going to have to do now is place bets on trade negotiations."

    Understanding the economy has become more difficult

    The Federal Reserve could have trouble getting an accurate reading of business conditions, as the shutdown threatens to distort key economic figures. That comes at an already uncertain time for officials there, whose rate path has been shifting in light of stock-market turbulence, a global trade war, and fading stimulus.

    "The tricky thing will be figuring out whether the dips in the numbers are just transitory effects of the shutdown, or portend a more persistent deceleration in the pace of economic activity," said Ken Kuttner, a former staff economist at the central bank. "And making that distinction is especially important right now, since there were already some hints of a slowdown."

    US creditworthiness has been called into question

    A prolonged shutdown could lead to a credit downgrade for the US, making it more expensive for Americans to borrow.

    With mounting doubt about the government's ability to resolve short-and long-term challenges, major credit-rating agency Fitch Ratings warned this week that the US could lose its AAA status if lawmakers fail to pass a budget and manage the debt ceiling.

    "The more the dysfunctional the US government looks, the more likely it is that bond agencies will become tempted to downgrade its creditworthiness," Moynihan said.

    The housing market could falter

    An already soft spot in an otherwise robust economy, additional obstacles in the housing market would likely leave economists concerned. Residential real-estate activity has been cooling off as tax laws, reduced construction activity, and higher interest rates compound housing shortages across the country.

    "The longer this shutdown lasts, the more the momentum be extracted from the spring market, the annual 'Super Bowl' of the housing market," said Jonathan Miller, a real estate appraiser at Miller Samuel Inc. "Housing is already showing weakness in a growing number of regions, and this uncertainty only accelerates the trend."

    Mortgage applicants could also face longer wait times, especially for loans that require income verification through the Internal Revenue Service. According to a National Association of Realtors’ analysis of a 16-day government shutdown in 2013, nearly a fifth of home loan deals were affected.

    "Since the current shutdown is longer, we could see more loans impacted due to bigger backlogs," said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American.

    Inequality could get worse

    Disadvantaged Americans who rely on federal programs risk losing benefits during a government shutdown, potentially aggravating large gaps in wealth across the country.

    Millions of low-income households in the US receive some form of federal rental assistance, with many of them providing for children, the elderly, or those with disabilities. Federal contracts for more than 1,000 government-funded properties for these renters have expired due to the shutdown, NBC News reported this week.

    "Should the shutdown continue, landlords may move to evict tenants, and the most vulnerable households in the country will suffer," Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University. "Moreover, even if they don't evict tenants, in the longer-run, landlords may be less willing to participate in federal rental subsidy programs if they don't think the federal government is a reliable partner."

    Food stamps will be distributed through next month, according to the Trump administration, but it is unclear if that would be the case if the shutdown were to continue into March. 

    Now Read:

    Wall Streeters fled to Silicon Valley to chase riches, influence, and a better life. Now they're bouncing back to banking.

    RECESSION WATCH: Goldman Sachs has created a 5-part checklist for investors looking to avoid the next economic meltdown

    SEE ALSO: The government shutdown is in day 21 and just tied the record for the longest shutdown in history

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The equity chief at $6.3 trillion BlackRock weighs in on the trade war, a possible recession, and offers her best investing advice for a tricky 2019 landscape


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    This is a preview of a detailed slide deck from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service.Click here to learn more. Current subscribers can view the deck here.

    Rising smartphone penetration, regulations pushing users away from cash, and globalization demanding faster and new ways to transact are leading to a swell in noncash payments, which Business Insider Intelligence expects to grow to 841 billion transactions by 2023.

    The Future of Payments 2018

    This shift has created a greenfield opportunity in the space. Legacy providers are working to leverage their scale as they update their infrastructure and adapt their business models. But at the same time, upstarts are using their strengths in user experience to try to disintermediate or beat out those at the forefront of the space — a dichotomy that’s creating crowding and competition.

    Digitization and crowding in the payments space will force companies that want to emerge atop the ecosystem to undergo four critical digital transformations: diversification, consolidation and collaboration, data protection, and automation. Those that do this effectively, and use these shifts as a means of achieving scale without eroding the user experience, will be in the best position to use ongoing digitization in their payments space to their advantage.

    In The Future Of Payments 2018, Business Insider Intelligence takes a look at some of the biggest problems digitization and crowding are causing for payments firms, outlines the key transformations players can make going forward to resolve them, and explores areas where firms have already begun to use these transformations to their advantage.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Sahara_Desert_Tour_Morocco_Erg_Chebbi (48 of 49)

    • Stretching from Egypt to Morocco, the Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world, comparable in size to the continental US.
    • While there are many ways to visit the Sahara, possibly the most iconic way is to visit Erg Chebbi, one of Morocco's many ergs, or seas of sand dunes. Erg Chebbi is often used for films because of its stunning expanse of iconic fire-orange sand dunes.
    • To reach Erg Chebbi, one has to drive for two days from Marrakech through mountains and desert, before switching to a camel for the final stretch.
    • I recently visited and, while the sunset and sunrise were unforgettable, the dunes were far from the immaculate waves you see in photos, thanks to the hundreds of ATVs and 4X4s that ride through. 

    Growing up, my first ambition was to be an archaeologist. No one told me at the time that the job had little to do with what happens in "Indiana Jones," but you try telling that to a precocious seven-year-old. 

    To kid-me, being an archaeologist meant emerging from the whorls of a sandstorm with a scarf wrapped around my face as I rode a camel through the golden-orange dunes of the Sahara Desert, the largest hot desert in the world.

    Lacking the patience to dust pottery shards in the sweltering heat, I've long since outgrown my archaeological dreams. But that image of the Sahara — gentle waves of pristine sand, like a golden snowfall — has stuck with me.

    I'm sure the word Sahara conjures a similar image for you too, thanks to hundreds of movies, books, and photos. But the reality is that there all different parts of Sahara, from the rocky black desert in western Egypt to an immense salt lake in Tunisia

    But the one place that is definitely the Sahara of your dreams lies at Erg Chebbi, one of Morocco's many ergs, or seas of sand dunes. Lying on the edge of the Sahara, Erg Chebbi is often used for films because of its stunning expanse of iconic fire-orange sand dunes.

    About a two-day drive from Marrakech, Erg Chebbi feels like the start of many an adventure. On a recent trip to Morocco, I decided to take a road trip to see it.

    Here's what it was like:

    SEE ALSO: I visited the world's largest film studio, where Moroccan locals are cast as everyone from Osama Bin Laden to Jesus and the desert is littered with the wreckage of 'Game of Thrones' and 'Gladiator'

    DON'T MISS: An otherworldly desert in Jordan has doubled as distant planets in movies like 'Star Wars' and 'The Martian' — after seeing it myself, I can tell you it's just as breathtaking in person.

    My schlep to the Sahara started at dawn from Marrakech. We piled into an SUV and spent the day driving through the Atlas Mountains, the mud-red ksar of Aït Benhaddou, and past Ouarzazate, often called "the door of the desert.



    I spent the night near the Dadès Gorge, a rugged gorge carved by the Dadès River. My riad, or traditional Moroccan house, was situated in this red sandstone valley in a Berber village. The frigid mountain air was a shock to the senses.



    The following day required many more hours of driving to reach Merzouga, a small town at the edge of the erg. There's not much to see there besides small, windblown hotels and the mud-earth homes of Berbers who once lived as nomads in the erg and the mountains.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Dear Readers,

    Welcome to the new and improved Wall Street Insider newsletter! Every Saturday morning, we'll be giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the top Business Insider stories dominating banking, business and big deals.

    Our goal isn't to rehash the events of the week that you may have already read about elsewhere. We want to give you a peek at our exclusive reporting and analysis that reveals the personalities, internal struggles and strategies behind the finance industry's most secretive and powerful companies. It's stories that take you inside the power struggle at the top of Citigroup's equities unit that's a window on the latest Wall Street fad.

    It's speaking to 7 insiders about IBM's $34 billion Red Hat takeover about how the biggest software deal of all time came together. 

    And it's revealing how the VIX blowup last year led to a talent raid on Wall Street trading floors. 

    We want our stories to be informative — and fun.

    Please pass along this newsletter to anyone you think might find it valuable. New readers can sign up here

    You can reach me directly at ooran@businessinsider.com for tips, general comments and feedback.

    Thanks again for reading! 

    - Olivia


    Wall Streeters fled to Silicon Valley to chase riches, influence, and a better life. Now they're bouncing back to banking.

    wall street stealing tech talent 4x3

    After the financial collapse in 2008, waves of talented employees ditched Wall Street to join companies like Google, Apple, or the multitude of start-ups attracting piles of venture capital.

    But the trend of Wall Street talent fleeing to Silicon Valley to chase riches, influence, and a better lifestyle appears to be slowing, if not reversing, according to data and interviews with bank executives and headhunters.

    The finance and technology industries have converged, and tech's competitive advantages have thinned, report BI's Alex Morrell and Dakin Campbell. 

    "A lot of the solutions being cooked up here are just as advanced and just as sophisticated, if not more-so, than the solutions I saw outside in the fintech space," Alex Sion, who boomeranged back to Citi last summer to co-head its internal incubator, told Business Insider. "It's an enormous, enormous opportunity to have impact.""

    Goldman Sachs' 1MDB problems are eating into employee morale, and insiders worry the firm will use its legal woes as an excuse to scrimp on bonuses

    Goldman Sachs traders are wringing their hands ahead of this year's bonus season, one of the most emotional times on Wall Street.

    The sudden prospect of billions of dollars in fines from the scandal involving the 1MDB Malaysian sovereign-wealth fund has some traders worried that the bank has found a useful scapegoat to scrimp on bonuses, report BI's Trista Kelley and Dakin Campbell. Employees are set to learn about their annual pay numbers next week.

    "They'll find any excuse to cut comp," one trader in equities said. 

    Fines wouldn't be the only factor in determining bonuses, of course. Just how much Goldman employees might bring home also depends on the firm's performance — equities trading revenue rose 15% through the first nine months of 2018 compared with the same period in the prior year, while revenue from fixed-income trading surged 18%. The fourth quarter was a tough one on Wall Street amid an uptick in volatility.

    BlueMountain Capital is axing its long-short equity fund in a tough year for hedge funds 

    The $21 billion hedge fund BlueMountain Capital Management is closing its long-short equity fund just two years after launching it.

    As a result, four equity portfolio managers were fired this week, reports BI's Bradley Saacks. 

    The termination of the strategy and the subsequent firings are not related to the firm's decision to double down on its earlier bet on the troubled California utility PG&E, a source close to the company tells Business Insider. It was reported earlier this month that PG&E might consider filing for bankruptcy over the billions in liabilities it faces following the deadly California wildfires.

    2018 was a very tough year for hedge funds broadly, with a surge in poor performance and a string of high-profile shutdowns. Billionaire hedge fund manager David Einhorn posted his worst year ever, and Dan Loeb's Third Point also struggled.

    A group of Wall Street firms are planning to launch a stock exchange that should 'scare the living daylights out of NYSE and Nasdaq'

    A group of big Wall Street firms including Fidelity Investments, Morgan Stanley, and UBS announced a plan on Monday to launch a new equities exchange that will take on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

    The Members Exchange, or MEMX, will be owned entirely by its founding members, who plan to file an application with the Securities and Exchange Commission in early 2019 to try to gain approval as the 14th stock exchange in the US.

    MEMX founding members include a wide range of market participants. Banks (Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and UBS), market makers (Citadel Securities and Virtu Financial) and retail brokers (Charles Schwab, E-trade, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity) are all represented in the group.

    The exchange's creation came after frustration from big brokers and traders over the consolidation of power in the equities market, reports BI's Dan DeFrancesco. All but one of the 13 national securities exchanges are owned and operated by one of the three major players in the space: the Intercontinental Exchange, Nasdaq, and Cboe Global Markets.

    Meet the top lawyers working on some of the biggest deals in the booming marijuana industry that's set to skyrocket to $194 billion

    With the rapid spread of marijuana legalization in the US, lawyers are discovering that the tangled web of regulations guiding the rapidly growing industry is a boon for business.

    After last year's midterm elections, some form of cannabis is now legal in 33 states, and many in the industry say it's only a matter of time before legalization sweeps the nation.

    Big money — and big law — has followed. The opportunity could be huge: some Wall Street analysts say the global marijuana market could hit close to $200 billion.

    For one, as cannabis companies grow, merge, and start getting the attention of Fortune 500 corporations as acquisition targets, they need more sophisticated advice on financing, tax planning, corporate structure, and M&A.

    In addition, many marijuana companies still directly flout US federal law, despite being publicly traded and posting multibillion-dollar valuations.

    That's an opportunity to a select group of lawyers who have cut a trailblazing path into the industry. Once reluctant, some of the biggest law firms, like Duane Morris, Baker Botts and Dentons, are building out specialized cannabis practice groups as the industry continues to grow in profitability and complexity.

    Business Insider's Jeremy Berke has pulled together a list of the top lawyers who've worked on the largest deals in the past year in the growing marijuana industry.

    Wall Street move of the week:

    One of SoftBank's favorite tech bankers has left Goldman Sachs after 18 years

    Chart of the week: 

    2018 hedge fund performance chart

    In tech news:

    In markets:

    Other good stories from around the newsroom:

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Bleached coral

    Earth's oceans absorb a whopping 93% of the extra heat that greenhouse gases trap in the atmosphere.

    A new study has revealed that this absorption process is happening far faster than scientists had realized.

    According to an analysis published in the journal Science, the world’s oceans are heating up 40% faster (on average) than the last estimate from the world's scientific authority on climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    In one sense, the oceans' heat-trapping abilities help us in the short term.

    “If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” Malin Pinsky, an associate professor of ecology and natural resources at Rutgers University, told the New York Times. “In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”

    But overall, warmer oceans are a major problem. More heat in the water can negatively impact marine species, kill coral reefs, fuel sea-level rise, and lead to more severe storms. The authors of the new study calculated that in a “business-as-usual” scenario — in which we continue emitting greenhouse gasses as projected— rising ocean temperatures would lead sea levels to rise a full foot between now and the year 2100.

    That's because water, like most things, expands when it's heated. This thermal expansion is one of the driving forces behind sea-level rise; even small changes in temperature results in a large increase in water volume.

    Bearers of bad news 

    A handful of studies about ocean temperature since 2014 have conflicted with the IPCC numbers. So this new analysis looked at four such studies and concluded that some adjustments in how ocean heat gets measured were to blame for the discrepancy.

    Taking those adjustments into account, the scientists figured out that oceans are warming much faster than the IPCC calculated in 2014. By the end of this century, the study suggests, the top 2,000 meters of the ocean will see a temperature rise of 0.78 degrees Celsius (about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The analysis also refutes claims that there was a global warming “hiatus”— a pause in temperature rise — between 2000 and 2014.

     Zeke Hausfather, one of the study’s co-authors and a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, told Berkeley News that 2018 "will most certainly be the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that.” (Though the final calculations for last year aren't in yet.)

    As ocean temperatures continue to increase, we'll see more coastal flooding because of sea-level rise, as well as heavier rainfall and more severe hurricanes.

    That's because hurricanes' wind speed is influenced by the temperature of the water below. A 1-degree Fahrenheit rise in ocean temperature can increase a storm's wind speed by 15 to 20 miles per hour, according to Yale Climate Connections.

    Higher ocean temperatures can also cause corals to expel the algae living in their tissues and turn white — what's known as coral bleaching. This increases their mortality risk, along with that of the many species that live in and around reefs. 

    People who rely on fish for food could be affected too, Kathryn Matthews, deputy chief scientist for the conservation group Oceana, told the New York Times.

    “The actual ability of the warm oceans to produce food is much lower, so that means they’re going to be more quickly approaching food insecurity," she said.

    Why scientists initially underestimated ocean heat

    Climate scientists have long had their eyes on ocean temperatures as a definitive indicator of how our planet’s climate is changing as a result of the greenhouse gases that human activity sends into the atmosphere. Whereas surface temperatures can fluctuate year to year thanks to short-term weather patterns or things like volcanic eruptions, ocean temperatures don't.

    One of the biggest challenges in measuring ocean temperatures, however, is gathering enough data, since the oceans are so large and vast. Starting in the mid-2000s, scientists began measuring ocean heat via a flotilla of thousands of drifting instruments called Argo. These floats dive to a depth of 2,000 feet every few days, then note the ocean's temperature, acidity, and salinity as they rise back to the surface. They then to transmit that data to satellites.

    Before Argo, ocean temperature collection was more piece-meal — scientists would sometimes send sensors down to watery depths, but these sensors would transmit data only once before sinking to the bottom forever. 

    Argo Ocean Sensor

    “Scientists are continually working to improve how to interpret and analyze what was a fairly imperfect and limited set of data prior to the early 2000s,” Hausfather told Berkeley News. “These four new records that have been published in recent years seem to fix a lot of problems that were plaguing the old records, and now they seem to agree quite well with what the climate models have produced.”

    These new findings align with research published in November 2018 that also indicated (despite a few corrections after publication) that scientists had been underestimating ocean warming.

    “For each of the past 25 years, oceans have absorbed an amount of heat energy that is 150 times the energy humans produce as electricity annually," the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported.

    Coastal flooding

    Heat isn't the only troublesome thing oceans are absorbing. They also thanklessly take in roughly 25% of the carbon dioxide we emit. According to 2017 study, the oceans have absorbed about 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of the industrial era. Think of them as Earth’s air purifiers. 

    As Michael Crosby, president of Mote Laboratory and Aquarium, previously put it to Business Insider: “You like to breathe? Estimates are that up to 80% of the oxygen you are breathing in right now comes from the ocean."

    SEE ALSO: Earth's oceans may be way hotter than scientists realized — here's how worried you should be

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: China just made history by being the first to ever land on the far side of the moon


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    Sears

    • The fate of Sears is still unclear, leaving thousands of jobs in jeopardy.
    • But the question of whether or not Sears and Kmart employees will receive their severance checks from the bankrupt retailer largely comes down to when they were let go.
    • Employees who were laid off shortly before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October are now technically unsecured creditors.
    • These ex-employees can only receive up to $12,850 under US bankruptcy law.
    • Sears and Kmart employees who lost their jobs after the bankruptcy filing might still be eligible to receive some severance, depending on case-specific court filings.

    Sears isn't officially doomed yet. Chairman Eddie Lampert placed a revised $5 billion takeover bid on Thursday. If accepted, Lampert's bid would stave off liquidation, keep 425 stores open, and save around 50,000 jobs.

    Still, it's an uneasy time for the roughly 68,000 employees who work for Sears Holdings. Laid-off Sears and Kmart employees have even reported that they stopped receiving their severance checks after the retailers' parent company declared bankruptcy in October.

    This news sparked controversy, especially after it was revealed that millions of dollars had been set aside for conditional bonuses intended to tempt key corporate executives to remain with the company.

    But Steven Solomon, managing director for corporate law firm GrayRobinson's Miami office, said that Sears didn't have much of a choice in the matter. When a company files for bankruptcy, it must immediately stop paying out severance. Employees let go before a bankruptcy filing are essentially out of luck, at least for the time being.

    "It's not even a voluntary decision on the part of the company," he told Business Insider. "You are not permitted, absent court order, to continue to pay severance payments to those employees who were terminated prior to the filing of the bankruptcy."

    Sears did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

    The US bankruptcy code features a hierarchy of creditors. Laid-off employees who are owed severance are classified as unsecured creditors in the wake of a bankruptcy. Secured creditors, like financial institutions who've issued secured loans to a business, are paid off first when an estate goes bankrupt. Severance claims fall further down the list of prioritized creditors.

    kmart store

    Solomon likened the structure to a "waterfall"— the money must flow through the secured creditors before cascading down to lower-priority groups.

    So what happens if the funds dry up before they even reach the unsecured creditors? 

    "Very often, in big cases like this, the secured creditors will offer a carve out," Solomon said. "That means that they will agree that some portion of their collateral can be liquidated for the benefit of unsecured creditors."

    Read more:Sears is getting one last chance to save itself from oblivion

    Essentially, the secured creditors will save a piece of the pie for groups located further down the "waterfall," usually as a result of some negotiation. Solomon added that bankruptcy judges often hold a negative view of cases that solely benefit "secured creditors and lawyers."

    In the case of laid-off Sears and Kmart employees who are now designated as creditors, Solomon said that these workers must file a proof of claim for the case in order to receive any money from the case. According to court filings, a proof-of-claim deadline has not yet been set in the Sears bankruptcy case.

    While these laid-off employees are potentially entitled to money through a bankruptcy case, it's possible that they will receive less severance than they would have under normal circumstances.

    "There are statutory caps that are involved in bankruptcy that limit the amount you can pay to employees for things like severance," Larry Perkins, bankruptcy expert and CEO of management firm SierraConstellation Partners, told Business Insider.

    According to the US bankruptcy code, the bankrupt estate can pay out "unsecured claims," including severance, "but only to the extent of $12,850 for each individual."

    "I expect that many employees are out of luck as it relates to getting their full severance payments in light of how the values have played out in the case," Perkins said. 

    But what will happen to any employees who lost their jobs after Sears filed for bankruptcy? Well, according to Solomon, this group might be better off.

    "You have to imagine the bankruptcy filing date as a line in the sand," Solomon said. "Post-bankruptcy terminations are typically now governed by a court order."

    A bankrupt company could ask the court for permission to keep, terminate, or alter its pre-bankruptcy benefits, like severance and paid time off, for employees. So if a company like Sears chooses to maintain its benefit policies for rank-and-file, non-contracted employees, then those employees should receive their standard severance, despite the bankruptcy.

    And, when it comes to liquidation, remaining employees that have been deemed "essential" could see an even bigger payout. Perkins said that if Sears and Kmart are liquidated, there's a possibility that some employees will receive "something that looks a bit like a severance," such as a "stay bonus" or a "retention plan."

    He said that such offers are meant to ensure that "someone's in there to switch off the lights at the end" of the liquidation process. Solomon said that such a program is a crucial part of preventing vital employees from leaving amidst a bankruptcy or a liquidation.

    "You're trying to keep someone from jumping ship and going to Target," Solomon said.

    But these retention programs can be tied to specific employee targets, especially for higher-ups. During Toys R Us' bankruptcy, top C-suite executives left the company in May when it was revealed that they had not hit the goals necessary to trigger the bonuses.

    SEE ALSO: Sears has reportedly lined up a top liquidator to sell off its merchandise, in case the company’s rescue plan fails

    DON'T MISS: Warren Buffett predicted the fall of Eddie Lampert and Sears over a decade ago

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How Sears went from retail icon to empty stores


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    donald trump

    • President Donald Trump has learned from The New York Times that the FBI reportedly had him investigated as a possible Russian agent.
    • The investigation was reportedly launched after the president fired former FBI director James Comey, with whom Trump had long been frustrated.
    • In a tweet storm Saturday, the president lashed out at Comey, special counsel Robert Mueller, and former opponent Hillary Clinton.
    • He concluded his rant by claiming that he has been tougher on Russia than maybe any president, adding that he ultimately wants better relations with the country.

    President Donald Trump unleashed a tweet storm Saturday morning after learning from The New York Times that the FBI reportedly had him investigated after he fired former FBI director James Comey, looking carefully at whether or not he was a Russian agent.

    "Wow, just learned in the Failing New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof, after I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a total sleaze!" Trump tweeted Saturday.

    The president fired Comey in May 2017, reportedly causing alarm in the bureau, which was conducting an investigation into suspected Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    The firing of former FBI director Comey led special counsel Robert Mueller to begin investigating the president for obstruction of justice, and the FBI, according to The New York Times, launched a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether the president was knowingly or unknowingly acting as a Russian agent.

    Read More:The FBI reportedly started investigating whether Trump was a Russian asset after he fired Comey

    After reading or being briefed on the details of the story from The New York Times, Trump lashed out at Comey, Hillary Clinton, and Mueller.

    The president then proceeded to repeat that he has "been FAR tougher on Russia than Obama, Bush or Clinton," maybe "tougher than any other president."

    He concluded his tweet storm with a call for improved relations with Russia.

    "At the same time, & as I have often said, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. I fully expect that someday we will have good relations with Russia again!" Trump tweeted.

    SEE ALSO: Here's a glimpse at Trump's decades-long history of business ties to Russia

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: MSNBC host Chris Hayes thinks President Trump's stance on China is 'not at all crazy'


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    A collection of Bitcoin (virtual currency) tokens are displayed in this picture illustration taken December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Illustration

    Bitcoin is everywhere.

    The cryptocurrency is seemingly in the news every day as investors and businesses try to understand the future of this digital finance.

    But what is Bitcoin all about?

    Why is it suddenly on every financial news program?

    And what does it mean to you?

    Find out the answers to these questions and more in Bitcoin 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence.

    To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    ford self-driving car

    • Self-driving cars are supposed to be safer than our current deadly streets — but reporting on the small number of autonomous crashes has consumers worried.
    • A new report from the consulting firm Deloitte shows worries ticked up in 2019 compared to the previous years. 
    • The authors say regulation will be key to assuaging fears and catalyzing mass adoption. 

    More self-driving cars than ever before are hitting the roads. But while their rollout has plenty of people excited about the autonomous future, some people need a little more convincing, according to new research from the consulting firm Deloitte.

    For the past three years, the firm has surveyed more than 25,000 people in 20 countries about their views on autonomous vehicles. In a few major countries, including the United States, Germany, and India, the fraction of people who say self-driving cars won't be safe bucked the trend and increased in 2019.

    Screen Shot 2019 01 09 at 4.01.55 PM

    That's not good news for the companies racing to put their self-driving cars on the roads. So far, only Alphabet's Waymo has launched a commercial service, and even that still requires human safety drivers to monitor for any glitches.

    Media coverage of accidents isn't helping

    "Widespread coverage of even the very small number of accidents involving AVs may be shaping public perception," Craig Giffi, the firm's national automotive industry leader, said in the report.

    "Nearly two-thirds of consumers in Republic of Korea, the United States, India, and China agree that media reports of accidents involving AVs have made them more cautious of the technology."

    Read more: Uber employees working on self-driving cars feel their cars are safer but their careers are stuck, according to leaked employee survey

    While there aren't comprehensive statistics available for self-driving car crashes, the very small number of incidents has garnered a lot of attention given the secretive nature of many of the companies developing them and how new the technology is.

    Nationwide, there are an estimated five million crashes every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In California, there were 75 reported crashes last year, according to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles

    The Deloitte study also found that consumers are losing faith that traditional automakers, many of which are scrambling to invest in the nascent space, will be able to successfully launch their own autonomous products.

    Screen Shot 2019 01 09 at 4.33.53 PM

    "Consumer trust in traditional original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) bringing AV technology to market continues to slip," the study says.

    "Even in Germany, where trust in OEMs has traditionally been fairly solid, this proportion has dropped to 33 percent from 51 percent in 2017. This may be due, in part, to the black eye German automakers suffered in the wake of the 'dieselgate' scandal."

    So what needs to change?

    A lot.

    Electrification will help mass adoption, according to Deloitte, but the United States has the lowest share of electric vehicles of all the countries surveyed, with 71% of cars on the road today still guzzling gas.

    Regulation could help that, the authors say. 

    "Given that consumer interest in AVs has stalled, governments should provide regulatory leadership," the researchers write. "Establishing critical standards for AV development and use could address safety concerns, and it may also help the industry converge on technology solutions while reducing the cost of regulatory compliance."

    SEE ALSO: Uber employees describe a stressful and 'ridiculous' culture at the self-driving-car unit under its current leader, Eric Meyhofer

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These bespoke metal cars take 2,000 hours to make by hand — see the step-by-step process


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    Paul Golding Britain First

    • Facebook allowed political ads for far-right British political group Britain First to run on its platform in December, despite the fact the group is banned from the social network.
    • The ads ran for several days in late December, promoting a Britain First petition against an upgraded mosque in Maidstone.
    • According to the BBC, the ads were bought by Political Gamers TV, which is not directly affiliated to Britain First.
    • Facebook initially said the ads didn't violate its policies but eventually removed the posts.

    Facebook is still finding its feet when it comes to enforcing new rules around political ads on its platform.

    A BBC investigation found that the social network allowed at least two ads promoting a far-right British political group, Britain First, to run on its platform. Britain First and its leaders have been banned from Facebook since May 2018.

    The ads ran for a few days in late December and promoted a Britain First petition to halt the reconstruction of a mosque in Maidstone. You can see an example of one ad below, and the rest on Facebook's archive of political ads:

    Britain First ad

    The ads were not bought by direct representatives of Britain First, according to the BBC.

    Instead they were bought by a page called Political Gamers TV, which described itself to the BBC as: "A new, growing patriotic gaming youth movement... here to defend the rights of gamers and games from the unfair treatment of male gamers coming from SJWs [social justice warriors], feminists and left-wing activists."

    The ads were initially flagged by a Facebook user, Brian Whelan, in January and Facebook said the posts didn't violate its rules. When the BBC flagged the ads, Facebook removed the ads and the Political Gamers TV page, saying the violated its policies.

    A Facebook spokesman said in a statement: "Britain First's Pages were removed from Facebook in March 2018 for repeated content violations. We thank the BBC for bringing the Page 'Political Gamers TV' to our attention, which violated our policies and has now been removed. We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our Community Standards, so we can continue to take appropriate action such as this." 

    Read more:We ran 2 fake ads pretending to be Cambridge Analytica — and Facebook failed to catch that they were frauds

    Britain First criticised Facebook for removing content that supported the group, and said it was suing for "political discrimination."

    "This is political gerrymandering and censorship at its worst," the group told the BBC. "This is why Britain First is suing Facebook for political discrimination, in Belfast High Court."

    This appears to be one of the first real-world tests of Facebook's new political transparency tools, which were rolled out in 2018 and were designed to tackle foreign interference in elections and to help with the spread of fake news.

    It follows investigations by Vice and Business Insider which show that it's easy to post prohibited political ads on Facebook, despite its stricter rules. Vice posed as 100 US senators to post fake political ads and was approved by Facebook. Business Insider posed as banned data consultancy Cambridge Analytica and successfully posted divisive ads about Brexit.

    Facebook delayed the rollout of its new political ad transparency tools in the UK as a result. The tools eventually rolled out in November with what Facebook described as tighter approval processes.

    SEE ALSO: Facebook has banned far-right party Britain First and its leaders

    SEE ALSO: We ran 2 fake ads pretending to be Cambridge Analytica — and Facebook failed to catch that they were frauds

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: I cut Google out of my life for 2 weeks, but the alternatives prove why Google is so much better


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    yasuka maezawa lunar moon space tourist japanese billionaire spacex bfr big falcon rocket moon mission lunar event AP_18261106605775

    • The Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has surpassed a chicken-nugget-loving US teen by posting the most retweeted tweet ever.
    • Maezawa's tweet offered a financial incentive for people to retweet it.
    • Elon Musk announced in September that Maezawa had purchased a ticket to fly around the moon on SpaceX's Big Falcon rocket.

    The Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa made headlines last year when Elon Musk announced he would be the first commercial passenger to be flown around the moon in SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket. Now, Maezawa has set a record for the most retweeted tweet.

    The record was held by Carter Wilkerson, a US teen who in 2017 asked Wendy's how many retweets he would need to be awarded a year's supply of free chicken nuggets.

    The fast-food chain replied with "18 million," and Wilkerson's subsequent tweet begging people to help him achieve his goal racked up 3.5 million retweets. Though Wilkerson did not hit the target of 18 million, Wendy's acquiesced and gave him a year's supply anyway.

    Read more:Meet Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese musician turned billionaire art collector who's set to be the first person to travel to the moon with SpaceX

    At the time of writing, a tweet by Maezawa had racked up more than 4.5 million retweets, outstripping Wilkerson by more than a million. The post is a celebration of Maezawa's clothing company, Zozotown, making 10 billion yen ($92 million) in sales over Christmas and New Year's.

    Maezawa, however, is operating with two major advantages. First, he is already a public figure with over 5 million followers, whereas TechCrunch reports that Wilkerson only had 138 followers when his nugget appeal went viral.

    Second — and perhaps most tellingly — Maezawa offered a financial incentive for people to retweet. He has promised to share 100 million yen ($923,000) among 100 randomly selected people who retweeted him.

    Business Insider has contacted Twitter to ask about its policy regarding gambling on the platform.

    SEE ALSO: The first tourist to fly around the moon on SpaceX's new rocket ship bought all the seats for artists — and Elon Musk said it restored his faith in humanity

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic plan on taking you to space


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    Tidelift_Founders

    • Tidelift, founded by former Red Hat employees, on Monday announced $25 million in new funding to try to create a new business model for open-source software.
    • The open-source industry is in the middle of great change as some software companies make defensive moves against Amazon and other cloud providers reselling their open-source projects for a profit.
    • Tidelift helps connect software developers with the people who make open-source software — the developers get better service and support, while the open-source maintainers get financial support for their work.

    In the early 2000s, people would balk at the notion of using free, open-source software to run a serious business — companies like Red Hat, which bet its business model on the concept, were seen as oddities.

    But times have changed. Open-source software is key to most modern computing infrastructures. And over a decade later, IBM is planning to acquire Red Hat for a colossal $34 billion.

    Now, Tidelift, a startup founded by a group of former Red Hat employees that wants to repeat the trick and pioneer a new business model for open-source software, on Monday announced $25 million in new funding from General Catalyst, Foundry Group, and former Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik.

    What Tidelift is trying to do, says its cofounder and CEO, Donald Fischer, is connect the users of open-source software directly with the people who make it.

    "It only makes sense that it should be in our self-interest to pay the maintainers" of open-source software, Fischer told Business Insider. "If we don't do that, it's going to be a rough 2019. We need to set ourselves up with decades of more success."

    Often, open-source projects are maintained by enthusiasts in their spare time as an act of altruism for the developer community. But those maintainers often have day jobs or otherwise don't have the time or financial resources to work on the project full time. Open-source software is always free, and free doesn't pay the bills.

    This results in undermaintained open-source software, Fischer said, where security holes and other bugs go unpatched in even reasonably popular projects. That in turn makes it harder for businesses to rely on open-source software — and sometimes drives them to pricier, but better-supported, commercial products from the likes of Oracle or Microsoft.

    That's where Tidelift comes in, Fischer says. If you're a development team that subscribes to Tidelift, your subscription fee gets disbursed to the maintainers of the open-source projects you're using — provided those maintainers have also signed up for Tidelift. In return, maintainers provide the tech support and fixes needed to put open-source software to work.

    "We observed that there's a two-sided marketplace at work around open-source software," Fischer said. "There's various individuals and teams creating software for different reasons. There's been a missed opportunity where organizations consuming that software would be interested in paying for additional assurances, and many people who would be interested in getting paid for those services."

    'Cracks' in the open-source business

    The founders of Tidelift have been working together in the open-source industry for the past 20 years, including at Red Hat. Fischer recalled that when IBM announced it would acquire Red Hat, it was "both gratifying and a little saddening."

    The new funding comes after a tumultuous year in the industry that brought its traditional business model under fresh scrutiny.

    "It was sort of an amazing year for open source," Fischer said. "At the same time, there are cracks forming around open source."

    Open-source companies like Elastic went public, while high-profile firms like GitHub and Red Hat navigated big-money acquisitions.

    In the traditional open-source business model, called "open core," companies like MongoDB, Elastic, and even Red Hat offer free open-source software that anyone can download and use as they wish, and they make money by charging for tech support and extra features that make the software more suitable for businesses.

    The rise of cloud computing has thrown an interesting wrinkle in that formula, as cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure take the free open-source software created by the open-source community, package it into a paid service, and offer it to their own customers for a profit. It's all perfectly legal, but the practice has sparked some backlash from smaller open-source companies, many of which have been making defensive moves.

    Read more:After Amazon's cloud encroaches on its turf, a startup is taking a stand: Open source can't be 'free and unsustainable R&D' for tech giants'

    Tidelift believes that its subscription solution can thread that needle, offering a way for open-source developers to make money without having to worry about a major cloud platform — or anybody else — eating their lunch.

    The Tidelift solution

    From Fischer's perspective, it's crucial that maintainers get the financial support to continue their open-source work. With the funding, Tidelift plans to expand its coverage and bring more open-source projects into the fold, at a time when it sees good open-source maintenance as more vital than ever.

    In November, the world got an object lesson in the value of good open-source maintenance when an open-source JavaScript package called "event-stream," which had about 100 million downloads a year and was used by the BBC and Microsoft, was found to have bitcoin-stealing malware that was snuck in by a malicious third party.

    While things don't always get that dramatic, a Tidelift subscription could give developers peace of mind that their open-source software is getting timely updates and security fixes, Fischer said. That's something you don't get if you download open-source software from the internet and just start using it.

    "Open-source software hasn't traditionally come with those guarantees," Fischer said. "It does come with the guarantee that you can make a copy of it. Just because you can make a copy and download it from GitHub doesn't mean anyone's ready to keep it working and keeping it well-maintained."

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    The future of retail is looking bright.The future of mobile commerce

    So bright that Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, expects the industry to top $5.5 trillion by 2020!

    While in-store and desktop purchases are certainly helping the retail industry boom, the biggest factor for this incredible growth is in your pocket.

    Find out why the smartphone will be crucial for retailers in 2018 and beyond with the first part of a brand new slide deck from Business Insider Intelligence called The Future of Retail: Mobile Commerce.

    Here are some of the key takeaways:

    • US retail is growing $200 billion year-over-year
    • In-store retail is still dwarfing e-commerce
    • But e-commerce is growing almost 4x faster than in-store
    • Mobile commerce is driving most of that growth
    • And much more

    To get your copy of the first part of this FREE slide deck, simply click here.

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    Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and incoming GitHub CEO Nat Friedman

    • GitHub has announced GitHub Free, which gives users unlimited private repositories for free — a move that brings it into tighter competition with rivals like Atlassian BitBucket or GitLab. 
    • This is GitHub's first major update since Microsoft officially acquired the code-sharing service for $7.5 billion in October.
    • Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, says that unlimited free private repositories was the top-requested feature for GitHub.
    • Microsoft bought GitHub to win the hearts and minds of software developers, and this could be an important step towards that goal.

    GitHub has made its first major update since Microsoft officially acquired the ubiquitous code-sharing service for $7.5 billion: It's giving away unlimited free hosting for private coding projects.

    With GitHub Free, developers can now host as many private coding projects they want for free.

    This is a big deal because, in the past, GitHub's free offering only allowed you to make coding projects that could be viewed by anybody, anywhere. The ability to host private projects — like a homework assignment, a side project, or even a coding test for a programming job — was a paid feature.  Now, making private repositories is free for everybody, and users can loop in up to three collaborators on these projects. 

    Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, writes on Twitter that since its acquisition, GitHub has shipped over 125 improvements. Based on customer feedback, unlimited free private repositories was the top-requested feature. Notably, free private repositories are a hallmark feature of GitHub rivals like GitLab or Atlassian BitBucket. 

    "I’m especially excited to ship it because GitHub is ultimately a community, and the more collaboration that happens on GitHub, the better it can be for everyone," Friedman tweeted. "We often think of coding as a solitary activity, but in fact it’s the world’s largest team sport."

    GitHub also announced that it's consolidated its existing products for the business under the GitHub Enterprise brand, which it will now sell as one subscription. Those products include GitHub Enterprise Cloud, which gives businesses a private GitHub portal for their own use, and GitHub Enterprise Server, which lets customers run GitHub's software in their own servers for maximum control over their data. 

    Read more: GitHub CEO Nat Friedman lays out the master plan

    Microsoft's acquisition of GitHub was a major play for the hearts and minds of software developers, everywhere. Giving away more of the service for free could be an important step towards that goal. 

    "This is something we've been excited about for a long time," Kathy Simpson, senior director of product management at GitHub, told Business Insider. "It really shows an investment in the future for the community of developers we're looking to build...It's making GitHub an easier platform to everyone to use."



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    white house

    • The 2020 presidential election is more than a year away, but many hopefuls are already announcing their candidacies. 
    • While many potential Democratic candidates have yet to announce their intentions, some have already launched presidential campaigns, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Maryland Representative John Delaney. 
    • Here's a list of the major party 2020 presidential candidates. 

    SEE ALSO: An early look at the 2020 presidential contenders

    President Donald Trump

    President Donald Trump is seeking reelection in 2020. He announced his intentions to do so just days into his first term, on January 20, 2017. 



    Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren

    On a video posted to her website on December 31, 2018, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she was launching an exploratory committee for a presidential run in 2020. In the video, Warren — who has long been expected to run – described her vision of defending the middle class, which she said was "under attack."



    Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

    Castro declared his candidacy on January 12 in a widely publicized announcement event in San Antonio, Texas, his hometown and where he served as mayor for five years. 

    Castro's official announcement came weeks after his brother had revealed the news during an interview with Stephen Colbert in December.

    Under Castro's tenure, HUD expanded lead safety protections in federally assisted housing, worked to reconstruct communities affected by natural disasters under a $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition, and fulfilled the Fair Housing Act.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    house of representatives before and after 2x1

    • The 116th Congress was sworn into office on Thursday, January 3.
    • The incoming House of Representatives is shaping up to be the most diverse class in history.
    • There will be more women, women of color, openly LGBT members, and millennials serving in the House than ever before.
    • Those gains in representation are largely concentrated among Democrats.
    • See how the demographics of the House are changing with our interactive graphic.

    The 116th Congress was sworn into office on Thursday, and the incoming House of Representatives is shaping up to be the most diverse House class in history.

    The 2018 midterms saw historic gains in Congressional representation for women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and younger candidates — with the vast majority of those gains coming from Democrats.

    A record 106 women were elected to serve in the 116th House, an increase of 15% over the 92 women who served in the 115th House. Combined with five new female Senators and 10 female Senators not up for re-election, a total of 131 women will serve in the 116th Congress.

    Read more:12 records the 2018 midterm elections smashed

    While 52% of the 67 incoming House Democratic freshmen are female, only two, or 4.5% of the 44 incoming Republican freshmen are women — West Virginia's Carol Miller and Arizona's Debbie Lesko. Lesko won a special election earlier this year to replace Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned in the wake of a sexual misconduct scandal.

    Republicans saw their roster of female House representatives gutted 43% from 23 members to 13, as many Republican women either stepped down to run for higher office — like Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee and Kristi Noem in South Dakota — or were unseated by Democratic challengers.

    As the blue wave swept through suburban America, it unseated many Republican women in its wake, including Karen Handel in the Atlanta suburbs, Barbara Comstock in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia, and Mimi Walters in Orange County, California — formerly reliable Republican areas.

    Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland,

    The 116th House also boasts more women of color than ever before, including the first Native American women to serve in Congress and the first African-American women to represent Illinois and Massachusetts in the House, respectively.

    As with gender, the gains in representation for people of color are heavily concentrated in the Democratic Party. A full 34% of the incoming House Democrats but 2% of their Republican colleagues identify as people of color. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio will be the only incoming non-white freshman Republican.

    Read more: 2 photos show the stark difference in the new representatives Democrats and Republicans are sending to Congress

    Furthermore, four of the 15 Republican representatives who were identified as Hispanic or African-American in the 115th House either retired or lost-re-election to Democratic challengers, including Florida's Carlos Curbelo and Utah's Mia Love. Among the 200 Republicans in the 116th House, 90% will be white men.

    Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    While two of the 115th House's LGBT members, Krysten Sinema of Arizona and Jared Polis of Colorado, resigned to pursue higher office, four new Democratic LGBT candidates were elected: Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Sharice Davids of Kansas, Angie Craig of Minnesota, and Katie Hill of California. There have been no openly LGBT Republicans in the House or Senate since 2006.

    The 115th House was one of the oldest in history, but 2018 midterms also ushered in a wave of younger Gen X'ers and Millennials elected to Congress. The average age of an incoming member of Congress is 47, a full decade lower than the average age of the 115th Congress. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

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