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TikTok’s Future Remains Unclear After Walmart And Oracle Win Bid For Partial Ownership

President Donald Trump has been battling with video-sharing social networking platform TikTok for months now. Trump has claimed that the Chinese-owned app, run by company ByteDance, is giving personal user information to the Chinese government upon request; a claim that ByteDance and TikTok has denied multiple times on claims that the US branch of TikTok is run in the US and barely connected to the offices in China. 

Recently, the president demanded for a full sale of TikTok to an American owner, and in August he gave ByteDance 90  days to sell or they would face a countrywide shutdown. He then issued twin executive orders that would ban transactions from the US with ByteDance, but in late August the company announced a potential sale of the app.

The tentative deal from ByteDance was made over this past weekend after the Trump administration announced that if an acceptable deal was not met, TikTok would be removed from the app store starting this weekend and lasting until November when the app would be fully banned.

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ByteDance announced they would create a US subsidiary called TikTok Global which would be part-owned by the US entities of Walmart and Oracle. Four of the company’s five main board members would be American and the fifth would likely be the ByteDance founder himself. After this announcement Trump delayed the app store ban by a week. 

The proposed structure of this agreement is still unclear, as it seems ByteDance announced this deal as a means of getting Trump to ease up on his pressures to ban the app. Oracle and Walmart have stated that they would own 20% of the company while ByteDance would own 80%, however, Oracle’s vice president recently made a statement regarding the deal. 

“Upon creation of TikTok Global, Oracle/Walmart will make their investment and the TikTok Global shares will be distributed to their owners, Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global.”

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The competing claims are leaving the public unsure of what the reality of this deal actually is. It does seem as though the Trump administration is in support of the Oracle Walmart bid for partial ownership of the app, however, the claims from ByteDance that they still would hold a majority stake in the company is concerning for business leaders. 

Professor Paul Haskell-Dowland is an associate dean of Computing and Security at Edith Cowan University in Australia who recently spoke with the press about this confusing deal and what it actually means for the future of TikTok in America. 

“There are competing claims [about ownership] because no one is really telling the full story. The deal seems to be changing by the hour.”

Haskell-Dowland went on to explain that the US and China will likely engage in more back-and-forth in regards to this deal and security updates that will come with the apps new ownership. In the end, he believes that it’s more of a political fight between two nations and has nothing “to do with national security or intellectual property.” Only time will tell what the final deal actually looks like and until then, users will just have to enjoy TikTok as it is before it potentially changes forever.

Money

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Boeing Building

Boeing Under Fire For ‘Gambling With Public Safety’ After Two Crashes 

According to a report from US politicians, Boeing has jeopardized the safety of passengers by cutting certain costs and ignoring software flaws that contributed to two fatal crashes. The cut costs and software flaws mainly existed in the development of Boeing’s 737 Max, an aircraft that has since been grounded indefinitely. 

The first crash occurred in 2018 and involved a Lion Air 737 Max, and the second occurred in 2019 at an Ethiopian Airlines; in total 346 individuals were killed between both crashes. The committee on transportation and infrastructure – made up of members of the House of representatives – in the US published their report on Wednesday, and within the report they claim that “there have been repeated and serious failures by Boeing and its regulator, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in allowing the faulty aircraft to carry passengers.”

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Democratic representative Peter DeFazio is the committee’s chair and expressed that Boeing and the FAA “gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes.” He attributes these failings to a “broken” safety culture at the company, and several gaps in the system that the FAA uses to regulate safety systems on these planes. These gaps are what led to the fatal crashes. 

After new reports of software fixes and new rounds of testing for the 737 Max plane, Boeing is hoping to re-certify the aircraft for public use. Between the coronavirus pandemic and these recent failings from Boeing, the company has had to cut over 16,000 jobs, so they’re hoping the re-certification of the 737 can help them recover. 

Boeing has been under investigation for the past 18 months, and within that investigation officials found that the company had cut some major costs in order to compete with its biggest competitor, Airbus. The report from the US government claims that this competition added an extreme financial strain to Boeing’s spending, which led to even more cut corners. 

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“Among other things, this pressure resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 Max program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 Max production line. There are several instances where the desire to meet these goals and expectations jeopardized the safety of the flying public.”

The report also found that Boeing had made some major errors in their aircraft design, specifically regarding the system put in place for the pilot should a crucial system malfunction during a flight. This system is referred to as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, and it was initially designed to push the nose of the plane down during certain flying conditions to prevent it from stalling. However, this system kicked in on both fatal flights shortly after takeoff because of a faulty sensor. 

The report also criticized the FAA greatly on their relationship with Boeing and complete lack of concern over these safety measures that have been overlooked. Boeing not only withheld information from the FAA, but were able to influence their regulator into approving certain flights for travel. 

Boeing is currently working on regaining regulatory approval for its 737 Max aircraft, and the company has “full confidence in its safety,” however, the real test will be to see what airlines continue to have a relationship with Boeing as time goes on.

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Target Store

Target Announces Diversity Plans To Increase Number Of Black Employees By 20%

Companies all across the country have been put under fire in recent months as the Black Lives Matter movement has been mainstreamed, prompting consumers to call on their favorite brands to step up their inclusion and advocacy for racial justice. 

This Thursday, Target pledged to increase the amount of Black employees across its entire workforce by 20% over the next three years. Target has around 350,000 employees in America, a majority of which are white, especially in their executive and leadership positions. 75% of its leadership team is White and 8% is Black; based on data from 2019. 

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When it comes to the retailer’s overall workforce – including part-time employees – 50% are White, 25% Latino, and 15% are Black; making up the top three groups. Within their pledge, however, Target also mentioned their many previous initiatives to increase representation within their stores and in their corporate offices. They claimed to have doubled their representation of non-White officers in the past five years; equating to about 30%. However, only 5% of that population is Black. 

Target also mentioned how now more than half of their stores are run by women and a third are managed by people of color, however, during a movement that is heavily focused on the injustices Black individuals face on a daily basis, consumers aren’t satisfied with the minimal effort they believe Target has put forward. Chief human resources officer for Target, Melissa Kremer, recently posted a news release regarding Target’s new pledge for inclusivity. 

“Inclusivity is a deeply rooted value at Target and we’ve had an ambitious diversity and inclusion strategy for many years for our guests and team. We know that having a diverse workforce and inclusive environment creates a stronger team.”

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Kremer went on to claim that Target would be emphasizing its recruitment and hiring of Black employees and look for new ways to advance their careers once they join the company. Anti-racist training will be implemented as well as new diversity programs that will focus on things like technology, merchandising and marketing; all aspects of Target’s corporate culture that’s mainly run by White individuals. 

Target is no stranger to publicly advocating for issues of social justice. They’ve made public statements telling customers not to carry guns in stores and welcomed all transgender customers to use their bathrooms and changing rooms whenever they need; which caused conservative groups to boycott the brand. 

After George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police this year, Target CEO Brian Cornell and other top executives released a statement expressing their pain over Floyd’s death, and made a call for change. He joined a subcommittee of the Business Roundtable to look for new policy recommendations that would directly address the issues with US law enforcement as well as create more opportunities for individuals who were previously incarcerated and looking for work. 

Other retailers joined target in this initiative by donating to civil rights causes and setting new standards when it comes to hiring and recruiting employees in the future. 

LGBTQ Flags

HRC Study Reveals LGBT+ People Are Disproportionately Facing Employment Challenges During Pandemic 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently collaborated with PSB Insights on a study that revealed that LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately facing employment challenges as the economy begins to reopen in the US. These challenges are nothing new for the community, however, the pandemic is adding a whole other layer of increased risk. 

LGBTQ+ individuals have already been dealing with an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 due to a systemic lack of access to sufficient medical care. Additionally, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be working in industries heavily affected by the virus, and are more likely to experience homelessness. 

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As a majority of states in the US begin to reopen, citizens in general are noticing a massive increase in pay cuts, and a decrease in available working hours/jobs available. For the LGBTQ+ community, these obstacles are even more prominent, as they existed long before the pandemic began as well. HRC President Alphonso David recently released a statement on this study and its staggering results. 

“As some communities start to go back to work, many times in fear and without choice, we’re seeing that LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, are being left behind.” 

According to the report, LGBTQ+ individuals have been 20% more likely to experience a cut in their work hours, LGBTQ+ people of color have experienced a 44% increase in the likelihood that their hours would get cut, and transgender individuals specifically have experienced a 125% increase. 

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LGBTQ+ people have also been 30% more likely than the general population to lose their jobs; the reported stated that bisexual people have been discriminated against the most in terms of job losses during the pandemic. Bisexual people have been 80% more likely to lose their jobs, and LGBTQ+ people of color are 70% more likely to become unemployed. All of this data was specifically taken from when states began reopening to ensure the numbers were exclusive to the pandemic and its economic impact. 

LGBTQ+ individuals were 50% more likely to receive a pay cut since the economies general reopening, and LGBTQ+ people of color have been 150% more likely to receive a pay cut. A majority of LGBTQ+ people who have the ability to go back to work are going back with the understanding that they would be receiving a cut in their salary; and for many, this is their only option of potential income. 

“We must make sure that elected officials at all levels are ensuring that LGBTQ people, especially the members of the community who are living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, receive the support they need.”

When states began reopening the study also found that 69% of the general population and 80% of the LGBTQ+ population believe prioritizing containing the virus is more important than reopening the economy. For more information on HRC’s study, click here.

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Walmart Store

Walmart Teams Up With Microsoft In A Bid To Buy TikTok 

Walmart announced this week that they would be collaborating with Microsoft in a bid to acquire TikTok. Currently ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company which is based in Beijing, is nearing an agreement to sell its American, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand operations in a deal that’s projected to earn the company up to $30 billion. 

Walmart and Microsoft are just one team placing a bid for the app in America, as many are looking to take advantage of buying one of the most popular social media platforms in 2020. Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove recently spoke with the media, and while he denied to comment on how the two companies would be dividing their ownership of the app, he claims this acquisition would be an amazing opportunity for both companies to compete against other giant corporations such as Amazon. 

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Walmart and Amazon have been competing as major “superstore” type retailers for years now. In fact, Walmart recently announced plans to launch its own membership program similar to Amazon Prime, called Walmart+, which will also include original content. 

“We believe a potential relationship with TikTok US in partnership with Microsoft could add this key functionality and provide Walmart a way to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.”

Walmart went on in their statement to also claim that they were confident in their ability to meet both the expectations of current TikTok users, and the US government; who has recently been attacking TikTok for its potential sharing of personal data with China; which has not been proven. 

In the US, TikTok currently has around 100 million active users. When compared to the amount of users the app had in 2018 there’s an 800% increase in use. Daniel Ives, managing director and technology analyst, claims that there’s a 90% chance TikTok will accept the bid from Microsoft and Walmart, and the acquisition of the app will be a major step in Walmarts constant expansion of services. 

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This will not be the first time Walmart and Microsoft work together either. In 2018, Walmart announced a five-year “cloud deal” with Microsoft, allowing the retailer to adopt Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure and include bundles in certain devices that would include Office 365 with every purchase. 

After TikTok was under major threat of being banned by Donald Trump and his administration, the app knew it had to find a new buyer so that the app would remain alive in one of its most lucrative markets worldwide. The Pentagon has already banned TikTok from being downloaded on any government-issued devices due to security concerns; the US House of Representatives and Senate were also ordered to follow suit. 

Despite the many allegations from Trump himself, TikTok has went on record multiple times that they have never shared personal data with China, it’s parent company, or any other company for that matter. They then explained how TikTok is run within each country it’s available, and all US user data is stored in the US. 

There’s no real timeline as to when TikTok will accept or deny Microsoft and Walmart’s bid, however, with the 2020 election getting closer, it’s likely the app will make a decision sooner rather than later in order to keep it alive. 

Delta Airplane

Delta Planning To Furlough Nearly 2,000 Pilots In The Coming Months 

Delta Air Lines is currently projected to furlough 1,941 pilots by October 1st due an over-staffing problem amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision is basically official, as the airline sent a memo to all employees this past Monday claiming the only way the furlough’s won’t be happening is if some sort of deal can be reached with their union. 

Delta currently has around 11,200 active pilots working for them. By next summer the company is projecting they’ll only need about 9,450 for next summer based on travel data that’s been collected throughout the past six months during the pandemic. Senior Vice President of flight operations, John Laughter, wrote the memo to pilots where he broke the news. 

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Next summer we expect to see the peak flying for the next 12-18 months. We are simply overstaffed and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision.” 

Airlines, and the travel industry in general, has been hit especially hard during the coronavirus pandemic, which makes sense considering the main way individuals can avoid potential infection is by staying home and not travelling at all, especially if it means travelling with a big group in an enclosed space. 

Delta received over $5.4 billion from the CARES Act in order to maintain proper payroll for their employees. The financial aid also came with a promise from the company that they would avoid furloughing employees until at least October 1st, and now that the date is approaching and the pandemic has only worsened in America, they realized that they would need to follow through. 

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20% of Delta’s workforce – around 17,000 employees – took the company up on a voluntary buyout package as the October date got closer and closer. It’s currently projected that all airline companies in America will likely come out of this pandemic much smaller than they were in the beginning of it, Delta included. 

These projections have caused airline executives to urge their employees to take the voluntary buyouts or a voluntary unpaid leave of absence until the future became more clear. 1,806 Delta pilots took early retirement packages, however, Laughter claims that still isn’t enough to avoid the furloughs. He claims that Delta is currently earning about 1/4th of the revenue they made this time last year.

Pilots that were hired after July 17th, 2017 are the most at risk for being furloughed due to contractual obligations between Delta and its more established pilots. While the pandemic isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, Laughter claims that the airline does have the full intention of bringing back all furloughed employees when things return to normalcy. 

“Though we expect a multi-year recovery, we will work diligently to bring you back to Delta as soon as we can, if demand recovers better than we are anticipating.”

The memo added that if the airline and the pilot’s union can reach an agreement that allows Delta to reduce costs, furloughing may be avoided. It can also be avoided if the CARES Act extends their payroll support program.

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