Day: June 11, 2017

Uber Discussing Leave for CEO, Reports Say

The board of Uber was meeting Sunday to consider placing the CEO of the ride-hailing company on leave, according The New York Times and other news outlets.


The Times reported that three people with knowledge of the matter have confirmed that Uber’s board was meeting to consider recommendations from a law firm hired to review Uber’s corporate culture and that the board may decide to put CEO Travis Kalanick on temporary leave.


The newspaper said its sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for Uber.


Uber Technologies Inc. has been rocked by accusations that its management has fostered a workplace environment where harassment, discrimination and bullying are left unchecked.


Uber spokesman Matt Kallman said that he wasn’t sure the company would make a statement after the meeting.


Reuters and the tech blog Recode reported the board meeting earlier. The Wall Street Journal also was citing unnamed sources about the meeting.


Uber has hired the law firm of former Attorney General Eric Holder to review policies and recommend changes. A report by his firm, Covington & Burling, was expected to be made public soon.


Uber announced last week that it fired 20 employees for harassment problems.


Under CEO Kalanick, Uber has shaken up the taxi industry in hundreds of cities and turned the San Francisco-based company into the world’s most valuable startup. Uber’s valuation has climbed to nearly $70 billion.


Management style at issue

But Kalanick has acknowledged his management style needs improvement. The 40-year-old CEO said earlier this year that he needed to “fundamentally change and grow up.”


In February, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote on a blog that she had been propositioned by her boss in a series of messages on her first day of work and that superiors ignored her complaints. Uber set up a hotline for complaints after that and hired the law firm of Perkins Coie to investigate.


That firm checked into 215 complaints, with 57 still under investigation.


Uber has been plagued by more than sexual harassment complaints in recent months. It has been threatened by boycotts, sued and subject to a federal investigation that it used a fake version of its app to thwart authorities looking into whether it is breaking local laws.

Kalanick lost his temper earlier this year in an argument with an Uber driver who was complaining about pay, and Kalanick’s profanity-laced comments were caught on video.


In a March conference call with reporters after that incident, board member Arianna Huffington expressed confidence that Kalanick would evolve into a better leader. But Huffington, a founder of Huffington Post, suggested time might be running out.


He’s a “scrappy entrepreneur,” she said during the call, but one who needed to bring “changes in himself and in the way he leads.”


The board meeting comes fresh on personal tragedy in Kalanick’s life. His mother was killed in late May after the boat she and her husband were riding in hit a rock. Kalanick’s father suffered moderate injuries.


The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Chief Business Officer Emil Michael is planning to resign as soon as Monday.


The company has faced high turnover in its top ranks. In March, Uber’s president, Jeff Jones, resigned after less than a year on the job. He said his “beliefs and approach to leadership” were “inconsistent” with those of the company.


In addition to firing 20 employees, Uber said Tuesday that it was hiring an Apple marketing executive, Bozoma Saint John, to help improve its tarnished brand. Saint John most recently was head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes.


Judy Garland Returns to Hollywood, Laid to Rest in Mausoleum

Judy Garland has been laid to rest in a mausoleum named for her at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.


A spokeswoman for Garland’s estate says her family and friends held a private memorial service for the actress Saturday, which would have been Garland’s 95th birthday. She was buried in the Judy Garland Pavilion.


Garland’s children, Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joe Luft, wanted to bring their mother’s remains “home to Hollywood” from her original burial site at New York’s Ferncliff Cemetery, publicist Victoria Varela said. They attended the service, along with Garland’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


In a statement released to The Associated Press, they offered gratitude to their mother’s “millions of fans around the world for their constant love and support.”


Garland’s children announced earlier this year that they had relocated their mother’s remains to Los Angeles. Garland’s third husband, Mickey Deans, buried her in New York, but her children said she wished to be interred with her family in Hollywood, Varela said.


The Judy Garland Pavilion is intended as a final resting spot for Minnelli, Luft and other family members, cemetery spokeswoman Noelle Berman said in January.


Garland, star of classic films including The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St. Louis, died in 1969 at age 47 in London.


Jayne Mansfield, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino and Cecil B. DeMille are among the entertainment luminaries buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Rocker Chris Cornell was laid to rest there last month.


Natural, Manmade Wonders in the Land of Enchantment

Natural caves where desert natives once made their homes … places where massive boulders appear to rise up from the desert … ancient rocks inscribed with symbolic carvings … a once-active volcano where visitors can walk down into its center. These are just a few of the timeless wonders that national parks traveler Mikah Meyer recently visited during his journey through the southwestern state of New Mexico. He shared highlights with VOA’s JulieTaboh.


Musicon Helps Disabled Children Enter the World of Music

Music is as much about math, as it is about sound. It’s also about imagination and learning. But it’s out of reach for some disabled or physically challenged students, until now. A team of Polish inventors has created a push-button instrument that almost anyone can play. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.


Data Gathering Turns Zurich into Virtual City

Do you ever wonder what could be done with all of those street views and Instagram photos of your favorite city? Well, a group of technical experts has taken all that data and turned it into an amazingly detailed 3D city map. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.


South Korean Yekwon Sunwoo Wins Cliburn Piano Competition

Pianists from South Korea and the United States took the top three places Saturday in the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held in Fort Worth, Texas, this past week.

Yekwon Sunwoo, 28, of South Korea claimed the gold medal, while Americans Kenneth Broberg and Daniel Hsu followed as silver and bronze medalists, respectively.

More than half a century ago, international relations between the United States and Russia warmed when a tall, soft-spoken young pianist from Texas claimed first prize at the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Not long after, the piano competition that bears his name — Van Cliburn — was founded, attracting outstanding young talent from around the globe to compete for the coveted gold, silver and bronze medals every four years.

The competition began with 30 competitors, and the winners were announced Saturday evening.

As the gold medalist, Yekwon earns a $50,000 cash prize, Broberg, $25,000, and Hsu, $15,000. All three receive three years of professional concert management.

Leonard Slatkin, conductor and chairman of the jury, said the Cliburn competition, one of more than 200 piano competitions in the world, is an important one.

“Clearly the Cliburn is the premiere competition in the United States,” he notes. “It attracts the highest level. … The Cliburn ranks in a similar manner as, say, the Queen Elizabeth or the Tchaikovsky in terms of the international prestige it brings.”

​Life-changing and surreal

Twenty-five-year-old Rachel Cheung from Hong Kong, one of the finalists, said earlier this week that attending the competition would change her life, “because this is really the biggest competition in the world, and the engagements that would bring with winning it, would be very, very helpful to my career, and there will be a lot of opportunities and exposures.”

Hsu said being a finalist at the Van Cliburn competition was a bit surreal. 

“Even though it’s a competition, and there’s a lot of stress and preparation, but the overall feeling is just incredible and it’s a lot of fun, and I’m having a blast,” he said.

All of the competitors have played concerts. But for some, including Georgy Tchaidze, a 29-year-old finalist from Russia, playing in a competition is different from an ordinary performance.

“It’s all about pressure,” Tchaidze said. “Pressure is so high that sometimes you forget to enjoy the music. And music making is all about enjoying it. And to bring the joy and pass it to the audience.”

On the other hand, Hsu said he doesn’t approach a competition performance any differently from a concert.

“I’ve heard people say that, in competitions you should be more careful, and you should try and play for the jury. I didn’t particularly take that approach for this competition. I played how I felt in the moment, and how I thought the music should be portrayed.”

A life in music

Earlier this week, Yekwon said no matter the outcome of the competition, qualifying for the Cliburn validates a dedication to a life in music.

“My passion and love for music is just, deeply enough, and I can never get enough of it. You have to spend a lot of hours, and really such dedication to it,” she said.

Slatkin added that the Van Cliburn is not the be-all and end-all to a career.

“It should be just one possible step among many paths that the pianist can take. They wouldn’t have gotten this far if they weren’t good enough to be at the Cliburn.”


Tapwrit Rallies in Stretch to Win Belmont Stakes

Tapwrit overtook favored Irish War Cry in the stretch to win the Belmont Stakes by two lengths on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his third career victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit ran 1½ miles in 2:30.02 on his home track. Ortiz’s brother Irad won the race last year with Creator.

“The distance, I was sure he could handle it,” Ortiz said.

Tapwrit finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness. Five of the last nine Belmont winners have followed that same path.

“We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, that he had a legitimate chance,” said Pletcher, who is based at Belmont Park. “I think that’s always an advantage.”

Pletcher took two of the year’s three Triple Crown races, having saddled Always Dreaming to victory in the Derby.

Tapwrit paid $12.60, $6.50 and $5 at 5-1 odds. The 3-year-old gray colt was purchased for $1.2 million, making him the most expensive horse in the field.

Irish War Cry returned $4.70 and $3.90 as the 5-2 favorite, while Patch, the one-eyed horse trained by Pletcher, paid $6.50 to show.

The $1.5 million race took several hits before the starting gate opened.

It lacked Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Classic Empire, the expected favorite, dropped out Wednesday with a foot abscess.

Epicharis, the early 4-1 second choice, was scratched Saturday morning after failing a pre-race veterinary exam. The Japan-based colt had been treated for lameness in his right front hoof earlier in the week.

All that left it a wide-open race, and in the end it was Tapwrit that proved he was up to the grueling challenge.

“Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip,” Pletcher said. “It was everything we talked about in the paddock before the race. We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunch time. It looked like Irish War Cry still had a little something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep.”

Gormley finished fourth, followed by Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, J Boys Echo and Multiplier.

Hollywood Handsome was pulled up after jockey Florent Geroux lost his irons in the first turn and guided the horse to the outside until he could be stopped.