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Google employees protest China’s Dragonfly

By Business Desk,

Hundreds of Google employees have signed a protest letter over the company’s reported work on a censor-friendly search engine to get back into China.

The employees, according to a New York Times report, are demanding more transparency so they can understand the moral implications of their work, said the Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.

It has been signed by 1,400 employees and is circulating on the company’s internal communications system, the newspaper said, quoting three persons who are familiar with the document.

The letter argues that the search engine project and Google’s apparent willingness to accept China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.”

“Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment,” they say in the letter, according to the Times.

Employee anger flared with a report earlier this month in The Intercept that Google is secretly building a search engine that will filter content banned in China and thus meet Beijing’s tough censorship rules.

Google withdrew its search engine from China eight years ago due to censorship and hacking.

The new project is said to be codenamed “Dragonfly.”

The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a $10-million contract with the US military, which was not renewed.

With the secret project, Google employees are reportedly worried that they might unknowingly be working on technology that could help China hide information from its people.

“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” the protest letter says, according to the Times.

At a townhall gathering of employees on Thursday, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai said the firm was committed to transparency, and that while it was “exploring many options”, it was “not close to launching a search product in China,” the Financial Times reported, citing a person present at the meeting.

What Tesla take over proposal could look like

By Business Desk,

Now that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hired advisers for his plan to take the U.S. electric car maker private, and the Tesla board has named a special committee of independent directors to evaluate it — two steps CNBC reported would happen last week— the next milestone is for Musk to actually put together a formal proposal.

(Ideally, this proposal would already exist, but let’s table that point for now.)

Musk’s offer is likely to include conditional financing from third parties, including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and may have requirements that a certain number of Tesla shareholders roll over their existing stakes into a private company, according to M&A bankers and lawyers who have worked on similar transactions. Putting these conditions in a proposal will allow Musk to show the board something quickly without having to secure tens of billions in committed financing.

It’s also possible the Saudi sovereign wealth fund could commit much more in financing, but Tesla’s cash-burning business, costly factories and Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) issues make that less likely, the bankers and lawyers said.

Of course, Musk already tweeted he had secured financing last week, which has reportedly prompted an SEC inquiry. While conditional clauses may aid Musk’s efforts in lining up financing, the SEC will only care about what he knew to be true at the time of his first tweet, said Thomas Gorman, a lawyer at Dorsey & Whitney and a former SEC enforcement attorney who specializes in financial fraud and market manipulation.

It’s particularly important there is Saudi financing in the formal proposal because Musk has specifically said the country’s sovereign wealth fund’s interest in taking the company private was the basis for his “funding secured” comment,” said Gorman.

“The SEC needs to determine if Musk’s first tweet was a false statement when he put it out,” said Gorman. “There must be some documentation around conversations about funding, even if it’s limited. If the Saudi sovereign wealth fund has the ability and willingness to do this, and Musk knew at the time, you might not like the way he did this, but I don’t think that’s an enforcement case.”

Musk did make reference to existing shareholders rolling their stakes into a private company through a special-purpose vehicle when he first tweeted about Tesla’s take-private last week. The details around how such a fund would work weren’t clear, and there’s no obvious precedent for such a thing.

Musk said Monday he is being advised by Silver Lake on taking the company private. Silver Lake helped Michael Dell with his management-led buyout of Dell in 2013. It’s likely Musk wants to emulate how Dell took his company private, Gorman said. Still, Dell dealt with a variety of obstacles, including counterbidders and deducing a fair price for shareholders, when he attempted the leveraged buyout. Musk probably won’t have an easy time moving forward with a buyout even if he avoids the SEC’s glare, Gorman said.

“He can’t make the company do this,” Gorman said. “If the company decides it doesn’t want to do this, then it won’t.”

Low cocoa prices cripple Ghana

By Business Desk,

Without government subsidy, Ghana’s cocoa sector would have difficulty financing its core activities, said Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Joseph Boahen-Aidoo.

Government support has become critical due to the lowering price of cocoa on the world market that has made Ghana, the second largest producer of cocoa in the world, struggle to meet its obligation to farmers as well as keep developing the sector.

The cocoa sector, according to the CEO, has been compelled to cut down on a lot of its core operational cost due to the lower outturn in cocoa revenue as a result of lower cocoa prices.

While the regulator spends 2,400 U.S. dollars per ton, including 1,800 as producer price and 600 to cover buyers’ margin, haulage, storage, conditioning before shipment, global price for cocoa has fallen to 2,100 dollars.

This has left the cocoa market regulator in deficits whenever prices fall below 2,400 dollars, Boahen-Aidoo pointed out in an interview on Wednesday during the 80th Anniversary lecture of the Cocoa Research Institute.

“We have been running at a loss. In fact, last year there was a deficit of 2.03 billion Ghana cedis (428.6 million U.S. dollars). That was the difference,” he said.

This happened “because the price of cocoa hovered around 1,700 dollars and 2,100 dollars which was woefully below the operational required cost of 2,400 dollars. So any time the price of cocoa goes below that level, we are in trouble,” he said.

Stakeholders therefore fear that without government intervention, the sector could lose its right of place as the backbone of the Ghanaian economy.

“And as I have explained, we cannot also reduce the producer price because the moment we do that, farmers will leave cocoa and give out their land for other purposes, including illegal mining,” Boahen-Aidoo cautioned.

He said COCOBOD had been in talks with government to cushion the industry because, for a long while, cocoa has supported the country.

“So if price is falling on the world market, through no fault of ours, then the country has to support the cocoa farmers to sustain them because if we do not sustain them and they cut down the cocoa, as is happening in the Eastern Region, to plant rubber, then Ghana would be in trouble,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, which account for about 60 percent of annual global cocoa production, are in talks to harmonise their trading in cocoa to control what goes into the market at any given time to ensure that the chocolate beans are bought at a fairly appreciable price.

Samsung launches Galaxy Note 9 phablet

By Business Desk,

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) launched the Galaxy Note 9 “phablet” in New York on Thursday, promising better battery life and quick cooling to attract gamers and revive flagging sales.

The focus on gamer-friendly features appears to be a shift away from Samsung’s previous positioning of the Note as a productivity-boosting device, and is an attempt to lure younger customers as the company’s smartphone sales falter.

U.S. carrier Verizon Communications Inc said the new device will be available for pre-order from August 10, with the 128 gigabyte model priced at $999.99 for the and 512GB model at $1,249.99.

Sprint Corp will introduce the smartphone on August 24 and offer a 50 percent discount as part of a promotional scheme.

Samsung also launched the Galaxy Home speaker, a device that will use its Bixby voice assistant and compete with similar products from Amazon Inc, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

The company last month posted its slowest quarterly profit growth in more than a year as rivals such as China’s Huawei Technologies nipped at its heels, challenging the market leader with cheaper, feature-packed models.

An industry source said the new Note would be priced similarly to its predecessor Note 8, which sold at around $950. The Note 8 sported dual rear cameras and the biggest screen to date on a Samsung smartphone.

The new Note will support up to 1 terabyte of memory – it will have a 512 GB version that will support an additional 512 GB memory card – the source said, making Samsung the first major smartphone maker to sell a 1TB phone.

Samsung launched the Note 9 at 11 a.m. in New York on Thursday, or Friday midnight in Seoul. The new Note is set to hit stores on Aug. 24, Samsung said.

The launch comes about three weeks earlier than its predecessor’s release date, a move prompted by increased competition in the second half of the year as rivals release new smartphone models.

During the event, the company also unveiled its Samsung Galaxy watch with a wireless pad and charger duo for its watch and Note 9.

Samsung said the Note 9 will be the first Android phone to support Fortnite, a hugely popular video-and-smartphone survival game that was only playable on computers, consoles and Apple products until now. Lovers of the game will get an exclusive Note 9 character skin or alternative appearance for characters.

The phablet – a cross between a smartphone and a tablet – would also be able to cool down quickly during game sessions that typically heat up phones a lot.

Its S Pen stylus is Bluetooth-enabled and designed to act as a remote for controlling YouTube video playback.

For its smart speakers, Samsung has partnered with Spotify Technology SA for music streaming. Spotify shares rose nearly 5 percent to $186.96 after the announcement.

Huawei overtakes Apple in smartphone sales

By Busines Desk,

China’s Huawei has surpassed Apple for the number-two spot as smartphone maker despite being essentially barred from the key US market and said  said it could supplant Samsung as the world’s number one late next year.

The chief of Huawei’s consumer division, Richard Yu, made the remark at the release of business results for the first half of 2018, during which unlisted Huawei said it shipped more than 95 million smartphones, an increase of about 30 percent.

“It’s no question that we become the number two next year. In Q4 next year it’s possible we become number one,” Yu said in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city where Huawei is based.

He added that “the past six months have been incredible”.

Huawei took second place from Apple in a tightening global smartphone market during the second quarter, according to figures released Tuesday by tech-industry trackers International Data Corporation (IDC).

South Korean titan Samsung remained on top in April-June, shipping 71.5 million handsets for a 20.9 percent market share, IDC said.

But Huawei sold 54.2 million phones for a 15.8 percent market share, followed by Apple’s 41.3 million iPhones that gave it 12.1 percent of the market.

It was the first time since early 2010 that Apple was not in the top two.

IDC said 342 million smartphones were shipped during the second quarter, down 1.8 percent from the same period of 2017 and the third consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines.

Market saturation and rising prices are among factors blamed for cooling growth rates.

The leader in global telecommunications equipment, Huawei is essentially blocked from selling phones in the United States on security grounds owing to suspicions of the company’s links to the Chinese government.

Huawei has long disputed any such links.

Frozen out of the US phone market, Huawei has made inroads worldwide largely by shipping high volumes of its cheaper handsets in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Mo Jia, a Shanghai-based smartphone market analyst with Canalys, said achieving Yu’s end-2019 goal would be “very challenging” given the market doldrums and competition.

“After all, it does not have the ability to enter the world’s third-largest market — the US. This is an obvious shortcoming,” Mo said.

Event organizer postpones Lagos food, beverage fair

By NewsDesk,

Organizer of annual Lagos International Food and Beverage Fair and Festival (LIFBEF) has postponed 2018 edition of the fair, earlier slated to commence on 26 and end 29th of July, to 27 and end 30th of September 2018. due to logistic reasons.

Through a statement released over the weekend by convener and Managing Partner,  Imani Events and Exhibitions, Khadijah Tebun, it was stated that the postponement was due to desire to ensure that the 2018 edition of the event was given world class standard and satisfy purpose of the initiative.

It said: “The fair organizers and other partners deem it important to reschedule the event, to enable accommodate various programs and plans, such that would make the event a memorable one.

According to the statement, LIFBEF had its debut edition in 2012 and has held the remarkable event for five years consecutively, as a specialized trade fair which brings together the Food and Beverage Industry annually for four days, Thursdays-Sunday every year.

“LIFBEF is approved and supported by NACCIMA, endorsed by the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry LCCI, while NAFDAC and Consumer Protection Council CPC are partners. The fair has enjoyed the participation of multinationals like Honeywell PLC, Promassidor, Dufil now Tollaaram group makers of Indomie, Power Oil among others.

“The major objective of the event is  introduce, exchange, and learn about the latest innovations and technologies from around the world; to create opportunities, exposures, and training for innovative Agricpreneurs.

“The Food and Beverage industry is the Largest industry in the world in the country. The Nigeria population of over 200 million gives her the advantage over all other countries where there is a huge market, especially for food.”

FG unveils new Nigeria Air

By News Desk

The Federal Government of Nigeria on Wednesday unveiled the new National Carrier. It is called ‘Nigeria Air’.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, did the  unveiling to investors at the ongoing Farnborough International Air Show in UK.

The colour is green white green.

According to Sirika the new carrier will ply 81 routes, both local and international, after considering about a thousand destinations.

Ethiopian Airlines said its in talks with Nigeria on the  new national carrier.

China to invest $3bn in Nigerian oil sector

By Business Desk,

China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) is willing to invest $3 billion in its existing oil and gas operation in Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said on Sunday following a meeting with the Chinese in Abuja.

During a visit to Nigeria’s state-owned NNPC, CNOOC Chief Executive Yuan Guangyu said the Beijing-based oil company had invested more than $14 billion in its Nigerian operations and expressed readiness to invest more.

China auto firms to set up ride-sharing platform

By Business Desk,

Chinese firms FAW Group, Dongfeng Automobile and Chongqing Changan Automobile have set up a venture to establish a ride-sharing platform, Changan said on Saturday, creating the kind of service pioneered by Uber.

“The three major car companies have joined forces to enter the field of shared travel, which provides an opportunity to transform traditional car enterprises,” a notice posted by Changan on its Wechat social media account said.

The new venture, called T3 Mobile Travel Services, would introduce partners from other industries to build the service and seek to make use of the development of driverless cars to offer safer and more efficient travel services to customers.

The three firms signed a cooperation agreement in December.

China’s ride sharing market is now dominated by Didi Chuxing, which is valued at $50 billion and counts Japan’s SoftBank Group as one of its major investors.

Police arrests Ex-Apple engineer with self-driving cars secrets

By Business Desk,

Former Apple employee, Xiaolang Zhang, was captured at the airport just before boarding a flight to China, after apparently stealing some of the tech giant’s secret plans for self-driving cars.

The ex-employee, had been a person of interest, already interviewed several times by Apple, and also by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

When he booked a last-minute flight to China on July 7, Zhang was arrested at the San Jose International Airport by FBI agents and has been charged with theft of trade secrets, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court in San Jose.

The intrigue began months ago. Hired in December 2015 to work on Apple’s project to develop hardware and software for self-driving or autonomous vehicles, Zhang took paternity leave during April and traveled with his family to China, according to the complaint.

Upon his return on April 30, Zhang told his immediate superior he was resigning to move back to China to be closer to mother who was in poor health. Zhang also said he planned to work for XMotors, a Chinese autonomous and electric vehicle startup, which has offices in Silicon Valley.

That set off some alarm bells at Apple, which asked Zhang to turn in two iPhones and a MacBook and then security team began reviewing his network activity, the filing says.

Apple’s investigation found that Zhang on April 28 and 29 had downloaded confidential technical documents about self driving car prototypes, which were subsequently downloaded onto his wife’s laptop, authorities say.

Surveillance footage and badge swipe records also found that Zhang had entered Apple’s autonomous vehicle labs on April 28 and left with a keyboard, some cables and a large box, the complaint chargers. This activity took place at a time when he was on paternity leave, which is against company policy.

During another interview at Apple on May 2, Zhang admitted to seeking a job with XMotors while on staff at Apple. Zhang said he had downloaded the data to study it on his own and admitted to being shown a proprietary chip by Apple colleagues during his April 28 visit.

After the interview, Zhang retrieved and brought to Apple a Linux server and circuit boards he had taken from the lab, and his wife’s laptop, which he denied forwarding any data from.

Apple informed the FBI about the data taken, which included a 25-page document containing electrical schematics for a circuit board used in Apple’s proprietary self-driving project.

During an interview with the FBI on June 27, Zhang admitted to everything he had told Apple. When the agency learned that Zhang planned to fly to Beijing, with a final destination of Hangzhou, China on Hainan Airlines, the FBI apprehended him at the airport as he passed through a security checkpoint, the complaint says.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Apple said the company “takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously. We’re working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions.”

XMotors said it has not gotten any trade secrets Zhang may have taken from Apple and follows the laws of both countries, taking the protection of intellectual property rights seriously, company spokeswoman Isabel Jiang, said