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Trump approves TikTok deal involving Oracle, ending international standoff

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Donald Trump approved Oracle’s bid for the U.S. operations of TikTok “in concept,” a deal forced by the president’s orders last month declaring the popular video-sharing app a national security threat.

“I have given the deal my blessing. If they get it done that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too, ” Trump told reporters Saturday as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C. “I approved the deal in concept.”

The new company, which will be called TikTok Global, has agreed to donate $5 billion to an education fund, which Trump said would satisfy his demand that the government receive a payment from the deal. “They’re going to be setting up a very large fund,” he said. “That’s their contribution that I’ve been asking for.”

Under terms of the deal, Oracle and Walmart will control 20% of the new TikTok Global, according to a person familiar with the matter. Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic, already investors in TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance, are also expected to take stakes in the new company, the person said.

TikTok said in a statement that it was “pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the U.S. administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the U.S.”

The company confirmed Oracle will host all its U.S. data and secure its computer systems. TikTok said it is working with Walmart on a commercial partnership and it, along with Oracle, will take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round in which they can take as much as a 20% cumulative stake in the company.

The deal was forced by a pair of bans Trump issued in August citing national concerns over TikTok’s Chinese ownership. The Commerce Department on Saturday delayed by a week a ban that would have forced Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to pull the TikTok video app from their U.S. app stores on Sunday.

TikTok Global will likely be headquartered in Texas and will hire “at least” 25,000 people, Trump said. TikTok will need to hire thousands of content moderators, engineers, and marketing staff that were previously located in China and around the world.

To sweeten the deal for Trump, TikTok promised to hire an additional 15,000 jobs more than the 10,000 positions the company already pledged to fill earlier this year. It’s unclear if there’s a timeline to achieve that target, or any guarantees that it will follow through. Facebook Inc., the largest U.S. social media company, employed about 45,000 people in 2019, while Twitter Inc. employed only 4,900, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Trump is ramping up pressure on Chinese-owned apps in the weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential elections, citing national security concerns about the data U.S. citizens provide to them and the potential for Beijing to use them for spying. The president is trailing his opponent Joe Biden in polls and has sought to portray himself as tougher on Beijing than the Democrat.

While the Chinese government must now sign off on the transaction for it to go forward, as of earlier this week, ByteDance was growing increasingly confident that the proposal would pass muster with Chinese regulators, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

Under the terms of the agreement reached early in the week, ByteDance would retain a majority of TikTok’s assets and control over the algorithm, with Oracle and other U.S. investors taking minority stakes.

Trump seemed to contradict that on Saturday. “It will have nothing to do with China, it’ll be totally secure, that’ll be part of the deal,” he said. “All of the control is Walmart and Oracle, two great American companies.”

Trump spoke with Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison and Walmart Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon on Friday, telling them he still expected the U.S. government to receive a cash payment as part of the transaction, according to people familiar with the matter. They agreed to the educational donation as a way to satisfy Trump’s demand, one of the people said.

The new U.S. company intends to hold an initial public offering in about a year, according to people familiar with the matter. TikTok plans to use the proceeds from the listing for the $5 billion educational grant, one of the people said.

Oracle will get full access to review TikTok’s source code and updates to make sure there are no back doors used by the company’s Chinese parent to gather data or to spy on the video-sharing app’s 100 million American users, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal came together last weekend, the result of high-level negotiations between ByteDance, Oracle and top Trump administration officials after ByteDance rejected a bid from Microsoft Corp. and Walmart to buy the U.S. TikTok service outright.

Beijing has signaled it would greenlight a deal as long as ByteDance doesn’t have to transfer the artificial intelligence algorithms that drive TikTok’s service, Bloomberg has reported.

The Treasury Department said the deal is subject to a security agreement that requires approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius. The term sheet that’s been negotiated between Cfius and the companies will now have to be formalized in a document that details the mechanics for implementing the terms of the deal.

That document would likely include requirements related to the establishment of the new company, arrangements governing its relationship with ByteDance, whether an IPO is part of the deal, whether ByteDance will have to divest its entire stake in the IPO and what would happen if for some reason the IPO doesn’t occur, said Aimen Mir, a lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and a former deputy assistant secretary for investment security at Treasury.

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Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Why Small Businesses Are The Pawns of This Election Cycle

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Some guidelines for navigating through the red, blue, or purple uncertainty.

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We don’t know enough about COVID antibodies to count on them

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One of the biggest outstanding questions about the coronavirus, and one which could well determine the course of the pandemic, is the role that antibodies play in immunity.

By now you’ve probably heard plenty about antibodies in the context of immunity and developing a COVID vaccine. These Y-shaped proteins form because of an immune response to a pathogen or other hostile biological material. They may be personalized to sites on an individual virus called antigens, to which they attach and help prevent infection.

As with many viruses, antibodies form during the course of a COVID case and should offer protection against against a second coronavirus infection. But it’s still unclear just how potent these antibodies are and whether or not they may provide stronger immunity for some people more than others. And that raises the question of whether or not you can contract COVID-19 twice.

One central mystery that may take years to answer is how long COVID antibodies last. First off, antibodies don’t always behave the same everyone. Some may form powerful antibodies with staying power; others whose body’s so-called adaptive immune system produces weaker ones may face a much more brutal fight with COVID and be at a higher risk for reinfection. Human biology can react in unpredictable ways to new adversaries.

Then there’s the type of pathogen that the novel coronavirus is itself. Coronaviruses encompass a broad class of bugs which can include everything from some types of the common cold to SARS and MERS. There is to date no cure or vaccine for the common cold since there is such a variety of strains. There also aren’t any commercially available ones for SARS or MERS—or any coronaviruses for that matter.

Part of the reason for that is both the SARS and MERS outbreaks cause milder disease than COVID-19, and the former were contained relatively quickly. Patients who contracted SARS during that outbreak were found that have protective antibodies for an average of two years.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with the novel coronavirus—at least for certain COVID patients. In those who suffer from a mild case, antibody levels may be cut in half in just over two months, according to one study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Another new analysis by Imperial College London scientists released this week examined antibody levels among the British population. The report found that antibody prevalence dropped sharply and quickly in the study population: from 6% in late June to 4.4% in late September.

“This very large study has shown that the proportion of people with detectable antibodies is falling over time,” said Helen Ward, one of the lead study authors.

But there’s another twist: Those falling antibody levels don’t necessarily mean you’ll be reinfected with COVID. “We don’t yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others,” she said.

Other studies have shown there is a non-zero number of people who have been reinfected after recovering from COVID. A Lancet report published two weeks ago examined the case of a 25-year-old man from Washoe County in Nevada who contracted COVID-19 once in April and again at the end of May.

“The degree of protective immunity conferred by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is currently unknown. As such, the possibility of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 is not well understood,” wrote the authors from the University of Nevada and Nevada State Public Health Library.

To date, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts it, “confirmed and suspected cases of reinfection of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been reported, but remain rare​.”​

Experts stress that the mere presence of coronavirus antibodies is no reason to assume you’ll have long-lasting immunity or protect others from infection. The latter point throws a big wrench into proponents of a “herd immunity” approach wherein you simply let enough people get infected and become immune.

At the end of the day, it is still be important to wash your hands, wear a mask, socially distance, and be generally responsible—antibodies or otherwise.

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Who is Ryan Smith, new owner of the Utah Jazz?

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The NBA’s Utah Jazz has been owned for close to 35 years by Utah businessman Larry H. Miller or his family. But in a move that stunned locals, the Miller family announced today that it would sell a controlling stake in the team to Ryan Smith, cofounder of tech company Qualtrics.

So who is the new owner of the Utah Jazz?

Here are the high points: Smith is young (42), loves basketball, and has signaled a strong commitment to social justice, particularly racial justice issues. And of course, he’s very wealthy.

Prior Jazz owner Miller was born in Salt Lake City and built a business empire starting with car dealerships, then expanding to a television station and movie theaters before purchasing the Jazz in 1985. The price tag was reportedly $22 million for 100% of the Jazz. Miller died in 2009 and passed control of the Jazz to his family.

The contrasts between Miller and Smith start with that price tag: Smith’s takeover of the Jazz will cost him a reported $1.66 billion. It’s not entirely clear how large the Smith’ stake will be, though the team was recently estimated to be worth $1.55 billion by Forbes. However much he got, Smith paid nearly thirty times what Miller paid for the entire team, in inflation-adjusted terms.

Smith can afford the markup. He co-founded Qualtrics, with his brother and father, a marketing professor at Brigham Young University, in 2002. In 2018, the company was sold to German business software giant SAP for $8 billion, though it remains an independently run unit and Smith still serves as CEO. The founders’ share of that payday was estimated at $3 billion, and Forbes now estimates Ryan Smith’s personal net worth at $1.3 billion.

What exactly did SAP buy? Qualtrics started off by offering customer surveys online, but has expanded considerably. It’s now best known for its so-called “customer experience management” software, which brings together a variety of data sources, including surveys, social media chatter, and direct customer feedback. The software is meant to track both broad sentiment about a company’s products and services, and specific customer interactions, such as repair or refund requests. One of Qualtrics’ closer competitors is Salesforce, which draws on a similarly broad array of data sources to help companies manage sales and customer relationships.

As Fortune detailed when we named him to its 40 Under 40 list in 2016, Smith is a lifelong Utah resident and, like the majority of Utah residents, a Mormon. He’s been a major booster of the local business community, helping found a coalition of central Utah tech businesses called Silicon Slopes.

Smith has been notably active on social justice causes. In June, at the height of Black Lives Matter protests, Smith announced he would personally match donations by Qualtrics employees to legal defense funds for the movement. In a 2017 Forbes profile, he strategizes with fellow founders about how to attract more diversity to Utah.

Those commitments should serve Smith well as an NBA owner, given recent collisions between sport and politics that included a brief NBA player strike in August in response to police shootings of African-Americans. They also mark something of a contrast with Miller, who in 2005 raised the ire of activists by refusing to show Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain at theaters he owned because it depicted a gay relationship.

Smith also clearly loves basketball. He has a court in his basement, as well as in the lobby of Qualtrics’ headquarters building in Orem, Utah. Smith’s Twitter feed is sports-heavy, and he has partnered with the Jazz before, including a sponsorship this year that helped raise $25 million for cancer research.

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