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Chinese Executive: Forced Sale of TikTok May Be Inevitable Amid US Scrutiny

The Chinese company that owns popular video-sharing app TikTok is exploring all possibilities to ensure that its subsidiary can continue operating in the United States, according to a memo sent out Monday by Chief Executive Officer Zhang Yiming.Beijing-based ByteDance has come under pressure from Washington to sell off its U.S. TikTok operations over concerns that the company’s links to the Chinese government threaten the privacy of U.S. citizens.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that President Donald Trump is likely to take action in the coming days. People familiar with the matter told Reuters that Trump agreed to give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale to Microsoft.In the meantime, Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday that its CEO, Satya Nadella, and Trump had a conversation on the potential acquisition and “Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.”Zhang, who founded ByteDance in 2012, said Monday that his teams are working around-the-clock “for the best outcome.” Without naming Microsoft directly, Zhang acknowledged that ByteDance is in negotiations with a tech firm, but “we have not decided on the final solution yet. The attention of the outside world and rumors around TikTok might last for a while,” he said.According to the memo that was reported in the Chinese media, Zhang complained to his employees that “the current geopolitical and public opinion environment is becoming more and more complex. TikTok’s U.S. business is facing the possibility of being forced to sell by CFIUS, or TikTok products may be banned in the United States due to administrative orders.”FILE – Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken Nov. 27, 2019.CFIUS, or the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, opened a review last year of the Musical.ly purchase that led to TikTok’s creation. Zhang also said that despite their willingness to adopt more technical solutions to allay Washington’s concerns, the company believes CFIUS will require it to sell the TikTok U.S. operation. “We do not agree with this decision,” he said.As TikTok surged to become one of the most popular apps in the world, Washington began calling for a national security investigation into the app. White House officials and lawmakers are worried what information TikTok shares with the Chinese government about the app’s roughly 100 million American users.Zhang emphasized again that TikTok is a privately run business.“We’ve always firmly protected the security of users’ data, the platform’s independence and transparency,” he said.U.S. officials have argued that such guarantees mean little because Chinese companies generally have no choice but to bend to Communist Party demands.On Monday China’s foreign ministry said it strongly opposed any U.S. actions against Chinese software companies, and it hoped the U.S. could stop its “discriminatory policies.”In an interview Monday with U.S. business news network CNBC, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the company’s pursuit of TikTok “exciting.”“Price is important, as well as whatever restrictions come with it from a government perspective, but I think it’s an exciting avenue for Microsoft to really increase its consumer base,” he said.In the meantime, U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called for a U.S. company to purchase TikTok.“A U.S. company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe,” he said in a tweet, “With TikTok in China, it’s subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government.”

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Microsoft in Talks to Buy TikTok in US

Microsoft confirmed that it has held talks with Chinese technology company ByteDance to acquire its popular social app TikTok in the United States. Microsoft said it will work with the U.S. government on a deal that they hope to wrap by September 15.  Matt Dibble has the story. 

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UN Chief: COVID-19 Risks Lasting Losses on Global Education

The U.N. Secretary-General warned Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest disruption to education in history and risks creating a “generational catastrophe” if governments do not make education a priority.  “Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” António Guterres said in a video message.In this file photo taken on Feb. 8, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters.Before the virus began multiplying across the globe, more than 250 million school-age children were out of school. That number soared to over a billion by mid-July, as 160 countries closed schools in a bid to slow the virus’s spread.   Children and babies have developed COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but many have no symptoms. Those that do get ill tend to have more mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. However, there have been some fatalities. Scientists also caution that children can transmit the virus to adults.     But as children stay home from school in massive numbers, the United Nations warns that the economic impact of the pandemic could mean that almost 24 million young people may drop out or not have access to school next year.  “We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Guterres said. “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”Students wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in their classroom at the Jean Benoit College in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on June 1, 2020.He urged governments to prioritize education funding in COVID-19 recovery plans, as well as to target those most at risk of losing out on education, including young girls, the disabled, minority groups and persons in emergency situations, such as refugees. “Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority,” the U.N. chief said. “It will be essential to balance health risks against risks to children’s education and protection, and to factor in the impact on women’s labor force participation.”A teacher screens students as schools begin to reopen after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Cape Town, July 24, 2020.Guterres urged governments to seize the opportunity that the pandemic has presented to reimagine education and build it back in a forward-looking manner, including investing in digital infrastructure.  “As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education — the great equalizer — more than ever,” he said. “We must take bold steps now to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.”  To that end, an international coalition that includes U.N. agencies, NGOs dedicated to children and education, as well international and regional financial institutions, are launching a “Save our Future” campaign. It aims to harness momentum and political will for education as a critical component of pandemic recovery.    

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Coronavirus Numbers Drop in Egypt and Sudan; Libya, Tunisia and Algeria See Increases

Egypt is reopening churches for the first time in nearly four months, after a major decline in the number of recorded coronavirus cases in recent days. The number of new cases is also down in Sudan, while Libya, Tunisia and Algeria have been witnessing an increase.Worshippers gathered for the first church service in nearly four months in Egypt’s historic port city of Alexandria. Authorities reopened churches across the country on Monday.Those attending appeared to abide by strict safety rules regarding social distancing and the use of face masks.Mosques are open on weekdays but remain closed for Friday prayers and major holidays.Egypt’s Health Ministry indicated Sunday that there were just 167 new cases during the previous 24 hours and only 31 deaths. Figures for new cases have fallen dramatically in recent days, prompting the government to relax a number of restrictions.Neighboring Sudan has also witnessed a relative drop in the number of cases in recent days with under 100 new cases per day for most of the past week.Nearby Libya, however, is witnessing a rise in the number of new infections, according to Arab media.Libyan news channel 218TV reported that the Islamist militia-dominated port city of Misrata has been placed under curfew by authorities after six people died of COVID-19 over the weekend. Arab media reports say that mercenaries from outside Libya have been entering the country through Misrata. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.Children wear protective face masks as they look at clothes in a shop ahead of the Eid al-Adha celebrations amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Misrata, Libya, July 28, 2020.Paul Sullivan, who is a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, told VOA that he thinks the recent increase in the number of cases in Libya “is likely due in part to the movement of mercenaries into the country.”He added that in periods of conflict, “social distancing takes a back seat, particularly if you are a mercenary who is not part of the community.”Meanwhile, Algeria, with a population of about 44 million people, has seen a rise in the number of cases to more than 600 a day in recent days, double the number of infections from just a month ago. The European Union suspended travel from Algeria to the EU last week due to the increase.Said Sadek, well-known Egyptian political sociologist who is now in Tunisia, told VOA that he thinks there has been a rise in the number of coronavirus infections in Tunisia and other parts of north Africa, “because many people began relaxing their behavior after the number of cases dropped.” He added, “Many family members visit from France and other parts of Europe, bringing the virus back with them.”Saudi TV reported that there were “no reported cases of COVID-19” among those who participated in this year’s annual hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage. Saudi Information Minister Majed al Qasseri noted that “the extensive spread of the coronavirus and its clear danger to humanity forced Saudi Arabia to seriously limit the number of people attending this year’s pilgrimage.” 

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Norway Bans Large Cruise Ships After Recent Coronavirus Outbreak

Norway says it will stop all cruise ships with more than 100 people on board from disembarking at Norwegian ports after a coronavirus outbreak on a vessel left 41 people infected.  Health Minister Bent Hoie announced the ban Monday, saying the new rules will apply for the next 14 days. He said ships that have already departed will be able to offload passengers and crew at Norwegian ports but that no new journeys can take place.   “The pandemic is not over,” Hoie told a news conference. Norway’s Hurtigruten cruise line apologized Monday following the outbreak on one of its ships, the MS Roald Amundsen. “We have failed,” CEO Daniel Skjeldam told a news conference. “I apologize strongly on behalf of the company.” He said the company would suspend its cruises until further notice and that it is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures.” The cruise line was one of the first companies to resume sailing during the pandemic. Four crew members on board the MS Roald Amundsen were hospitalized on Friday when the ship arrived at Tromsoe, north of the Arctic Circle. They were later diagnosed with the infection along with another 31 crew members. Passengers aboard the ship were allowed to disembark before anyone had been diagnosed, sending local officials scrambling to locate them. At least five passengers have now tested positive and hundreds more have been told to self-isolate for 10 days. The cruise ship industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with ships worldwide shutting down in March after several high-profile outbreaks at sea.  

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Trump Gives Microsoft 45 Days to Seal TikTok Deal

The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok “is going to be out of business in the United States” on Sept. 15, unless Microsoft or another U.S. company concludes a purchase deal that satisfies the U.S. government, President Donald Trump said on Monday.   The president also is insisting the U.S. Treasury should get a cut of the sale price for allowing the company to operate in the U.S.  “The United States should get a very large percentage of that price,” Trump said at an afternoon news conference. “It would come from the sale — whatever the number is.” It is unclear under what authority the government could demand such a payment.  FILE – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a conference in Seattle, May 6, 2019.In a statement, Microsoft confirmed that its chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, had spoken to Trump and was committed to acquiring the company by the stated deadline.“Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States government, including with the president,” the statement read.  “Price is important, as well as whatever restrictions come with it from a government perspective, but I think it’s an exciting avenue for Microsoft to really increase its consumer base,” the company’s largest individual shareholder, former CEO Steve Ballmer, told CNBC earlier Monday.   Trump suggested it would be “easier to buy the whole thing than to buy a portion” of TikTok.  “How do you do 30%? Who is going to get the name? The name is hot. The brand, hot. And who is going to get the name? How do you do that if it’s owned by two different companies?” Trump said at the White House.  The Chinese video app is extremely popular globally. It has been downloaded 2 billion times, including 165 million times in the United States.     TikTok features not only entertainment videos but also debates, and it takes positions on political issues, such as racial justice and the upcoming U.S. presidential election.    Trump said late last week that he would ban the app because of security concerns. India already has taken such action.  Trump Sets Clock Ticking for TikTokUS president has threatened to ban popular Chinese-owned social media app amid security concerns Officials in Washington have repeatedly expressed concern that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing the company might share users’ data with the Chinese government.     ByteDance has said it does not share user data with the government of China and maintains it stores Americans’ user data only in the United States and Singapore.   TikTok recently chose former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive in a move seen as an effort to distance itself from Beijing.    “TikTok will be here for many years to come,” company spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said in a statement issued Monday.  The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group led by the Treasury Department, opened a national security review of TikTok last year.     CFIUS’s job is to oversee foreign investments and assess them for potential national security risks. It can force companies to cancel deals or institute other measures it deems necessary for national security.      
 

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Trump Criticizes White House Coronavirus Adviser

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday criticized a key White House coronavirus adviser after she told a national television audience that a new surge in infections was “extraordinarily widespread” in rural areas of the country and cities. Trump, in a Twitter comment, claimed, “Much of our Country is doing very well. Open the Schools!”   Cases up because of BIG Testing! Much of our Country is doing very well. Open the Schools!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2020His assessment came a day after Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told CNN, “We are in a new phase. What we are seeing today is different from March and April. To everybody who lives in a rural area: You are not immune or protected from this virus.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, had told ABC on Sunday she had no confidence in Birx’s earlier assessments weeks ago that the virus was receding in the U.S. before the new surge that developed in mid-June.  “I think the President has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no,” Pelosi said on ABC’s This Week show. Trump tweeted: “So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!” So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2020In another tweet, he claimed, “With the exception of New York & a few other locations, we’ve done MUCH better than most other Countries in dealing with the China Virus. Many of these countries are now having a major second wave. The Fake News is working overtime to make the USA (& me) look as bad as possible!” With the exception of New York & a few other locations, we’ve done MUCH better than most other Countries in dealing with the China Virus. Many of these countries are now having a major second wave. The Fake News is working overtime to make the USA (& me) look as bad as possible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2020Trump’s considerably more favorable view of how the U.S. is faring against the virus comes as he is facing a difficult re-election contest Nov. 3 against a Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, who for weeks has led him in national polling.  Trump has claimed to be “a wartime president” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, but Biden has retorted that Trump has abandoned the battlefield fight against the disease.  Birx said what she witnessed as she traveled to 14 states in the last three weeks gave her concern. “As I traveled around the country, I saw all of America moving,” Birx said. “If you have chosen to go on vacation into a hot spot, you really need to come back and protect those with comorbidities and assume you’re infected.” Admiral Brett Giroir, an assistant Health and Human Services secretary, stressed the continued need for wearing face masks. “If we don’t do that, and if we don’t limit the indoor crowded spaces, the virus will continue to run,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We are very concerned and this is a very serious point,” he said. The U.S. has recorded nearly 155,000 coronavirus deaths and more than 4.6 million confirmed infections, with both figures the highest national totals across the world. 
 

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Egypt Fact Checks Elon Musk On Who Really Built Pyramids

Egypt’s minister of international cooperation has extended an invitation to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk after a Musk post on Twitter that the pyramids were built by extraterrestrial beings.  Musk tweeted Saturday: “Aliens built the pyramids obv.” Aliens built the pyramids obv— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) A camel in front of the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt, July 13, 2013. (A. Arabasadi/VOA)Egypt Today reports on its website that famed Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass also weighed in on the topic on social media, saying that Musk’s tweet was a “complete hallucination.” Hawass added that he had “found the tombs of the pyramids builders that tell everyone that the builders of the pyramids are Egyptians and they were not slaves.”  He said ancient Egypt’s pyramid building was “a national project of the whole nation.” Musk had an apparent change of mind and eventually provided a link on his Twitter account about the building of pyramids.  He tweeted: “This BBC article provides a sensible summary of how it was done.” 

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Notre Dame Cathedral’s Organ Getting 4-Year-Long Cleaning

Pipe by precious pipe, the organ that once thundered through Notre Dame Cathedral is being taken apart after last year’s devastating fire.The mammoth task of dismantling, cleaning and re-assembling France’s largest musical instrument started Monday and is expected to last nearly four years. It will take six months just to tune the organ, and its music isn’t expected to resound again through the medieval Paris monument until 2024, according to the state agency overseeing Notre Dame’s restoration.Amazingly, the 8,000-pipe organ survived the April 2019 fire that consumed the cathedral’s roof and toppled its spire. But the blaze coated the instrument in toxic lead dust that must now be painstakingly removed.And while the organ didn’t burn, it did suffer damage from a record heatwave last summer and has been affected by other temperature variations it’s been exposed to since the 12th-century cathedral lost its roof, the agency said.Experts started removing the organ’s keyboards Monday and will then take out its pipes in a dismantling process that will last through the end of this year, according to the restoration agency. The pieces will be placed in special containers inside the huge cathedral, where the cleaning and restoration will take place.The general who leads the agency said the organ, which dates from 1733, will next play again on April 16, 2024, marking five years since the fire.President Emmanuel Macron hopes the cathedral can reopen in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. But it’s taken more than a year to clear out dangerous lead residue and scaffolding that had been in place before the fire for a previous renovation effort, and reconstruction of the landmark has yet to begin. 

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Musk: Aliens Built Pyramids, Egypt: He’s Hallucinating

Egypt’s minister of international cooperation has extended an invitation to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk after a Musk post on Twitter that the pyramids were built by extraterrestrial beings.  Musk tweeted Saturday: “Aliens built the pyramids obv.” Aliens built the pyramids obv— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 31, 2020Musk’s posting prompted Rania Al Mashat, the international cooperation minister, to tweet: “I follow your work with a lot of admiration.  I invite you & Space X to explore the writings about how the pyramids were built and also to check out the tombs of the pyramid builders. Mr. Musk, we are waiting for you.”I follow your work with a lot of admiration. I invite you & Space X to explore the writings about how the pyramids were built and also to check out the tombs of the pyramid builders. Mr. Musk, we are waiting for you 🚀. @elonmuskhttps://t.co/Xlr7EoPXX4— Rania A. Al Mashat (@RaniaAlMashat) August 1, 2020It was not immediately clear whether Musk’s tweet was serious or tongue-in-cheek. However, extraterrestrial entities as builders of Egypt’s ancient pyramids is the premise for several television shows and books.   Egypt Today reports on its website that famed Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass also weighed in on the topic on social media, saying that Musk’s tweet was a “complete hallucination.” Hawass added that he had “found the tombs of the pyramids builders that tell everyone that the builders of the pyramids are Egyptians and they were not slaves.”  He said ancient Egypt’s pyramid building was “a national project of the whole nation.” Musk had an apparent change of mind and eventually provided a link on his Twitter account about the building of pyramids.  He tweeted: “This BBC article provides a sensible summary of how it was done.”  

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