Morgan Stanley chief says bitcoin ‘doesn’t quite deserve the attention it’s getting’

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Bitcoin is getting more attention than it deserves, but the phenomenon is not going away overnight, according to Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman.

Speaking with CNBC on Thursday, Gorman said bitcoin isn’t even close to a safe investment, and would-be cryptocurrency owners shouldn’t expect otherwise.

“Something that goes up 700 percent in a year — it’s by definition speculative,” he said. “So anybody who thinks they’re buying something that it’s a stable investment is deluding themselves.”

“It might go up another 700 percent, but it could easily not,” Gorman added.

Gorman’s stance on bitcoin appeared slightly less negative than some of his peers on Wall Street. For example, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon predicted if “you’re stupid enough to buy [bitcoin], you’ll pay the price for it one day.” Meanwhile, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink called the cryptocurrency “an index of money laundering.”

The criticism from financial luminaries has done little to deter bitcoin’s ascent. On Thursday morning, the cryptocurrency traded at $7,141.03, according to Coindesk data. It had begun the year at only about $1,000 per token.

Gorman added that bitcoin is “punching above its weight” and the cryptocurrency “doesn’t quite deserve the attention it’s getting.”

Previously, the Morgan Stanley CEO described cryptocurrencies as “more than just a fad.”

He explained to CNBC that bitcoin’s growing acceptance and usability meant it was “not going away overnight.”

But there are issues and uncertainties surrounding the cryptocurrency.

“Is it a needed new form of stored value? I’m not so sure,” he said, adding it was also unclear if the regulators and central banks would watch bitcoin’s growth from afar or become involved.

Still, the bank chief grappled with digital money’s reputation for facilitating criminality: “Does it support people who want to use currencies on anonymous basis for wrong purposes? Absolutely,” Gorman said.

Proponents of bitcoin predict the cryptocurrency will continue breaking records amid its growing acceptance among users to carry out financial transactions. One analyst even predicted bitcoin could top Apple’s market cap in five years.

An Uber rider is suing the company, claiming it shouldn’t have hired driver who allegedly raped her

The Uber application on a smartphone during an Uber ride in Washington, D.C.

An anonymous Uber rider is suing the company in California Superior Court, claiming that Uber did not take sufficient measures to protect her from a driver who allegedly raped her on Nov. 11, 2016.

The complaint states that the passenger, called “Jane Doe” in the filing to preserve her anonymity, called an Uber after getting drinks and picking “the safe choice” to get home. After the assault happened, the passenger went to the hospital and doctors conducted a rape kit analysis. The Uber driver was charged with “Rape by use of drugs.”

The complaint alleges that this Uber driver had been previously charged with committing violent crimes and that Uber’s background check “either failed to discover these egregious charges, or willfully chose to risk passengers’ lives in exchange for the additional profit one more driver could potentially have provided.”

The filing alleges that Uber has an “inadequate and careless background checking process” that “only [goes] back for a period of seven years and [does] not capture all arrests and/or convictions.”

It also cites former Uber employee Susan Fowler’s blog post earlier this year that detailed a culture of sexual harassment and sexism at the company. The suit alleges that this culture has spilled over into the way Uber treats its passengers, especially female passengers, and says the number of reported sexual assaults and rapes of female passengers by male Uber drivers “has skyrocketed in the last several years.”

The filing also suggests that a “profits over safety” culture has “led to thousands of drivers with violent criminal records slipping through the cracks.”

“We are confident that a jury will hold Uber accountable for this horrific and senseless violence,” plaintiff’s attorney Jeanne M. Christensen said. “Uber must take immediate action to prevent another tragedy like this from happening.”

In response, an Uber spokesperson said, “These accusations are extremely concerning, and we are in the process of reviewing the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit follows a proposed class action lawsuit filed Tuesday against Uber asking the ride-sharing company to change its screening practices for drivers on behalf of all U.S. riders who were “subject to rape, sexual assault or gender-motivated violence or harassment by their Uber driver in the last four years.”

In late 2016, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that requires ride-hailing start-ups to look at violent convictions throughout a prospective driver’s entire record, instead of examining only those that occurred in the past seven years. It required Uber, Lyft and other companies to reject any driver who has been convicted of a violent felony or a terrorism-related offense, or is a registered sex offender. But it stopped short of requiring ride-sharing companies to submit drivers to fingerprint background checks conducted by the government.

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman: Trump is ‘worse than useless as a president’

Reid Hoffman, founder and chairman, LinkedIn

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is not shy when expressing his opinions of President Donald Trump.

The entrepreneur, who now sits on Microsoft’s board of directors and is a partner at venture capital firm Greylock, campaigned publicly for Hillary Clinton and in March said that Trump was even worse than he feared.

In an interview with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin at the Disruptor 50 event in San Francisco on Wednesday night, Hoffman had perhaps his harshest words yet about the president, calling him “worse than useless” and saying that he’d “take someone randomly picked from a phone book” over him as president.

He singled out Trump’s criticism of legitimate news sources like CNN as “basically criminal negligence” because we need to have “robust media functions” to check abuses by government.

Hoffman also discussed entrepreneurialism and the challenges of turning a start-up into a successful high-scale business.

One challenge, he said, is maintaining a consistent culture as a company goes through different stages — the CEO of a 50-person company might be able to interview every new employee for cultural fit, for example, while a 10,000-person company needs systems in place to communicate the company’s cultural mandates to new hires.

He also suggested that Uber, while it did many things right, missed the transition from being “pirates” to being “navy” — that is, from scrappy start-up to powerful established company — and that some of its cultural problems may have arisen because of that.

Here’s the full comment from Hoffman regarding Trump:

“You know I obviously last year campaigned relatively publicly and vocally against Trump as a candidate. I also think he is, you know, worse than useless as a president. I sometimes say at dinner parties, I’d take someone randomly picked from a phone book over him as a selection for president. And I think we’re seeing all kinds of play on that. Everything from, you know, a broad-based incompetence when it comes to very key race and unity issues … you know, like calling CNN ‘fake news’ is I think actually basically criminal negligence, right, because it’s like ‘no, we need to have robust media functions.'”

CEO Les Moonves: CBS may not be able to stay out of the media deal frenzy much longer

Leslie 'Les' Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corp.

Against the backdrop of sweeping consolidation in the media industry, CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves says he is positioning the network as the underdog against “monstrous companies,” including Comcast, Disney, as well as online powerhouses Netflix and Amazon.

Mooves spoke at CNBC’s Net/Net event on Thursday evening as word was leaking out that Comcast and Verizon were sniffing around the same assets of Twenty-First Century Fox that Disney was said to be in talks to buy. Fox appears to be considering the sale of most of the entertainment company, leaving behind news and sports.

“Disney is six times as big as we are. Comcast is six times as big as we are,” said Moonves, making a David and Goliath argument that CBS may be diminutive but nimble. “Netflix’s market cap is huge. Now Amazon, the number one company in the world, is producing content. We are sort of like an old-fashioned production company, we are a small guy.”

“It’s a jump ball we’re never going to win. We have to continue to develop our own projects ourselves … like we did with ‘Star Trek’ on our over-the-top service,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to compete.”

“Star Trek: Discovery” is available to stream on CBS All Access, the network’s television service delivered over the internet.

Moonves views online competitors more as frenemies. “We still do a lot of business with Netflix. We still produce original content for Netflix and virtually everyone who is our competitor is also our friend.”

However, Moonves did acknowledge that CBS might need to fortify its position. “Eventually are we going to have to do partnerships with other content companies and distribution companies? The answer is probably, ‘yes.'”

Despite all the deal talk, AT&T and the government are drawing battle lines over the telecom giant’s proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Last week, CNBC reported the Justice Department could sue to block the takeover unless AT&T agrees to sell its DirecTV division or Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN.

“It’s sort of a contradictory situation we’re in right now. I was pretty surprised. I’ve been surprised a lot in the past few weeks that the Department of Justice objected to this deal,” Moonves said. “It didn’t seem like something they would do, but God only knows what the reasons are for stopping that.”

But Moonves said there’s one thing he’s sure of in this current deal-making environment: “Content assets are incredibly valuable.”

Verizon, Comcast Approach 21st Century Fox About Acquiring Assets

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Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc have both approached Twenty-First Century Fox Inc to express interest in buying Fox assets that were the subject of recent talks between Fox and Walt Disney Co, two people familiar with the situation told Reuters on Thursday.

News of the approaches came the same day the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to end a 42-year-old restriction on ownership of multiple TV stations in a major market, removing a major roadblock to media company mergers.

It is unclear whether Fox’s broadcast assets are part of any of the conversations.

Fox shares jumped nearly 8 percent in after-hours trading. Shares of Viacom Inc and CBS Corp also rose more than 2 percent, a sign investors may see then as potential targets.

Disney was in talks to buy Fox’s movie and TV production studios, cable networks FX and National Geographic and international assets such as the Star network in India and European pay TV provider Sky Plc , CNBC reported last week.

The assets would give Comcast, the largest cable provider in the United States which bought NBCUniversal in 2011, an international distribution footprint. For Verizon, the U.S. No. 1 wireless carrier, it would provide movies and TV shows to stream to its mobile subscribers.

Comcast and Verizon declined comment. Fox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

Walmart helps to lift US markets

 

Walmart helped to lift US markets on Thursday, after the retail giant reported stronger-than-expected quarterly sales.

Shares in the retailer jumped about 7% after it reported a 4.2% increase in total third quarter sales. Comparable sales at its US stores rose 2.7%.

The Dow Jones increased 132.5 points, or 0.57%, to 23,404.

The wider S&P 500 index was up 11.29 points at 2,575.8, and the Nasdaq added 50.9 points to 6,757.1.

The broad gains followed two days of decline and were driven by strong corporate results.

Walmart said its investments in online retailing, such as its acquisitions of Bonobos and Jet.com, had been paying off, with online sales up 50% in the quarter.

Cisco was another company doing well. Its shares climbed almost 7% after the technology firm reported quarterly profits of $2.4bn, up 3% from the same period a year earlier.

Why work collaboration startups keep drawing massive valuations

In Silicon Valley, trends come and go, and with them go the investors and entrepreneurs. That common wisdom is borne out by most investment categories: social networks, e commerce and cleantech, to name a few. But not work collaboration startups.

Take this past May, when the Slack competitor Symphony raised money at a $1 billion valuation, and enterprise work management platform Smartsheet was funded at an $850 million valuation, within a week of each other. This was six years after Dropbox got its $4 billion valuation, with many other collaboration startups ballooning up in between.

Collaboration remains a successful area for investment because it presents significant opportunities for businesses who must relentlessly seek new efficiencies to remain competitive. Though this is an increasingly crowded field, the best products are those that simplify, streamline, and speed up existing work processes – freeing up bandwidth for higher-value work.

The never-ending quest for efficiency

“Perhaps there are forty, fifty, or a hundred ways of doing each act in each trade,” wrote Frederick Winslow Taylor more than a century ago, “but there is always one method and one implement which is quicker and better than any of the rest.” The same is true today, although these days, there seems to be a thousand ways to complete any given task. Email proved to be better than faxes or memos at sharing information quickly and efficiently; later, more software appeared for related uses, such as Skype and Basecamp. In the third generation of such tools, Slack replaced some features of email and Skype by combining elements of both: chat with archiving, notification, and search capabilities.

The next frontier is work management: a broadening of the category into new functionality that enables not just real-time communication, but real-time collaboration and visibility. The goal is to eliminate silos between work groups – both internal and external – and provide clear accountability for tasks throughout a process or project. The best-in-class in this industry are products that are intuitive to use, and enable business users to benefit from them without the need to write code or seek help from IT to implement.

Automation comes of age

Now, some companies are leapfrogging even further ahead to layer on powerful automation that shaves hours off the average worker’s work week by eliminating repetitive, manual tasks. Smartsheet, for instance, has recently released automation features that workers can configure themselves, with things like reminders and requests for updates and approvals triggered automatically. The potential upside of this functionality can be significant; in a recent survey commissioned by Smartsheet, more than 40 percent of respondents estimated they spend at least a quarter of their work week on repetitive tasks. By reducing the load of emails and “status update” meetings, businesses may not only recoup valuable worker hours, they may see an improvement in worker satisfaction, too.

Collaboration companies keep getting unicorn-scale valuations because their innovations answer the growing need for work efficiency. In an economy where companies run on single-digit margins, the quest for “quicker and better” is nearly infinite.

There’s a whole universe of ways that startups can help enterprises improve work processes and speed execution. The recent funding of Smartsheet, Slack, and Symphony is a harbinger of what’s next. For as long as knowledge work continues evolving, work management will remain the tech trend that never dies.

Ethiopia blocks nationwide access to the internet to stop students from cheating in exams

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Ethiopia has blocked access to the internet nationwide to stop students from cheating in exams, its government has claimed.

Mohammed Seid at the Office for Government Communications Affairs told Reuters that the “shutdown is aimed at preventing a repeat of leaks that occurred last year.”

“We are being proactive,” he said. “We want our students to concentrate and be free of the psychological pressure and distractions that this brings.”

Mr Seid is reported to have said that only social media website had been blocked temporarily, but independent sources have reported “widespread disruption” to mobile networks and fixed line internet services.

The government appears to have taken preventative measures to avoid a repeat of last year’s leak in which the papers for the country’s 12th grade national exams were made public.

In 12th grade, Ethiopians take exams to enter university and to study on vocational courses.

Mr Seid did not disclose when the internet block would be lifted, but affirmed that it would last throughout the exam season.

He said that the only social media sites were affected by the block and that other services such as online banking and airline bookings remained intact.

Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, has experienced social media bans before at the height of the 2015 and 2016 protests.

Amnesty International criticised these bans claiming that the country was “intent on stifling expression and free exchange of information.”

Iconic AOL Instant Messenger to be killed off in December

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), the iconic messaging program, will shut down this year.

Similar to MSN Messenger, AIM was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and is remembered fondly by web users of a certain age.

Though news of the 20-year-old program’s impending demise is hardly surprising, the announcement has been greeted with outpourings of nostalgia and pangs of sadness.

“If you were a 90’s kid, chances are there was a point in time when AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was a huge part of your life,” wrote Michael Albers, the vice president of communications products at Oath, in a blog post.

“You likely remember the CD, your first screenname, your carefully curated away messages, and how you organized your buddy lists. Right now you might be reminiscing about how you had to compete for time on the home computer in order to chat with friends outside of school.

“You might also remember how characters throughout pop culture from ‘You’ve Got Mail’ to ‘Sex and the City’ used AIM to help navigate their relationships. In the late 1990’s, the world had never seen anything like it. And it captivated all of us.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.”

AOL Instant Messenger was created in 1997, and will be discontinued on 15 December 2017.

It managed to outlast MSN Messenger, its old instant messaging rival, which was shelved in 2014.

Afghans to get free access to Wikipedia on their phones

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People in Afghanistan are set for greater access to the internet and free information, thanks to a new partnership between a local telecommunications company and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Roshan Communications and the internet giant announced on Monday that all of the company’s customers would be able to access the Wikipedia website through their phones – without being charged for data usage – for the next 12 months.

The initiative, called Wikipedia Zero, is due to launch later this month. It will be a fully functional version of the website, meaning users will have access to all content, search and editing functions.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organisation that runs Wikipedia and funds dozens of other open-source and other free knowledge projects.

“At Roshan, we are proud to have been leading the efforts to increase access to information,” Altaf Ladak, deputy CEO of Roshan, said in a statement.

“The partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation expands the frontier of access to information and knowledge, especially for Afghanistan’s youth who make up almost two-thirds of the population.”

Afghanistan only gained access to the internet for the first time in 2002, after the fall of the Taliban. Under the extremist group, it was deemed immoral.

Mobile data services began in 2012, which the government hoped would prove an important cultural and economic turning point for the country – though by the end of 2016, it was estimated only 12 per cent of the 26-million-strong population had access to the internet.

Social media use through mobile has rocketed in the last year, however, increasing by 43 per cent – meaning nine per cent of the population in total were active users. 

The UN declared in 2011 that access to the internet is a human right. In many developing countries, social media companies offer pared-back low data or free-to-access versions of their apps and websites.

“Wikipedia’s mission is to imagine a world in which every single person can freely share in the sum of all knowledge … Millions of people in Afghanistan will now have access to Wikipedia and its sister projects without incurring mobile data charges, said Ravishankar Ayyakkannu, Regional Manager for Strategic Partnerships in Asia and Eastern Europe of the Wikimedia Foundation.

“This will also empower them to participate in adding content to these projects,” he added.