North Korea Pledges to Dismantle One Nuclear Site If U.S. Takes 'Corresponding Measures'

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North Korea pledged to shut down one of its nuclear test sites in a meeting today between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. What does the North want in return? “Corresponding measures” from the United States. Unfortunately, we don’t know what that means yet.

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Apple pays off its $15.4 billion Irish tax bill


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The EU is to drop its litigation against Apple over its cosy tax relationship with Ireland now that the iPhone-maker has paid back 13.2 billion Euros ($15.4 billion) in back taxes, plus interest of 1.2 billion Euros ($1.4 billion). That sum is going in an escrow holding account pending Dublin and Apple’s appeal against the ruling.

Ireland’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe, announced on Tuesday that the government had recovered the full amount from the so-called “sweetheart deal,” which saw the trillion-dollar tech giant paying taxes as low as 0.05 percent as part of its arrangement with the country.

“The government fundamentally disagrees with the [European] Commission’s analysis in the Apple state aid decision and is seeking an annulment of that decision in the European courts,” said Donohoe. He added that as a committed EU member Ireland had “always confirmed that we would recover the alleged state aid”. Apple is refusing to comment on the decision, instead rehashing a statement from last year that said it is cooperating with the recovery process and was confident the decision would be overturned.

The EU deemed Ireland’s tax break to Apple illegal in 2016 as it gave the company a “significant advantage” over its competition. Apple was ordered to pay back the taxes it owed for the period between 2003 and 2014, along with interest. Unsuccessful appeals followed until Apple began paying back the money, starting with a $1.76 billion payment in May of this year, into an escrow fund.

“In light of the full payment by Apple of the illegal State aid it had received from Ireland, Commissioner Vestager will be proposing to the College of Commissioners the withdrawal of this court action,” European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an email to Reuters.

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US Senate passes bill modernizing music licensing and payouts


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The US Senate has unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act, which aims to bring the way the music business works in line with the digital age. Providing the bill is met with approval from the House, and is subsequently signed by President Donald Trump, the legislation — renamed the Orrin G Hatch Music Modernization Act in honour of the Republican senior senator responsible for introducing the bill — will finally be enshrined into law. It’s not expected to meet any opposition.

The bill, in three parts, ensures all music rights holders are compensated more fairly for their work. It will create a publicly-accessible database, detailing who owns a song, making it easier for publishers and artists to be paid royalties. Song reproduction charges have also been updated, to reflect market rates, and sound recording royalty rates will also be taken into account when considering performance royalty rates for songwriters and composers.

The bill has been a long time coming, with companies such as online radio SiriusXM and licensing organization SESAC creating issues along the way, but as SoundExchange CEO Michael Huppe said: “The future of the music industry got brighter today. Creators of music moved one step closer to getting paid more fairly. And industry forces that fought to maintain an unfair and harmful status quo were rebuffed.”

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Apple Watch Series 4 review roundup: This is the one we’ve been waiting for

Following yesterday’s iPhone XS/Max reviews, it’s now the turn for reviews of the Apple Watch Series 4 – and there couldn’t be a greater contrast between the two.

Apple’s cherry-picked quotes aside, reviewers were mostly underwhelmed by the new iPhone, advising iPhone X users not to bother upgrading and owners of older models to hold fire for the iPhone XR.

But when it comes to the new Watch, the clear majority view is that the Series 4 finally delivers on the promise of the device – and now is the time to buy. Even mechanical watch site Hodinkee shared this view …

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Cryptocurrency 'Wild West' must come to an end, UK lawmakers say

U.K. lawmakers have said they want to clamp down on the “Wild West” cryptocurrency market and prepare Britain as a legitimate home for the trading of digital currencies.

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The Treasury Committee released a report on Wednesday that called for the government to address the issues of poor security from hackers, volatile price swings, and anonymity that can aid crime.

A cryptocurrency is a digital record designed to work as a medium of value exchange. It uses cryptography to record and secure financial transactions. The virtual tokens that consumers buy can themselves be used to make payments.

The paper claimed that the British government currently has an ambiguous stance to the industry which is opening the door to criminal activity as well as high risk for consumers.

“As the Government and regulators decide whether the current Wild West situation is allowed to continue, or whether they are going to introduce regulation, consumers remain unprotected,” the report said.

The committee chair, Nicky Morgan MP, added that it was unsustainable for government and regulators to “bumble along, issuing feeble warnings to potential investors.”

The report noted that better regulation could reduce the volatility of a crypto-asset. The price of a Bitcoin increased from $6,472 in November 2017 to $17,629 in December 2017, and then fell back to $7,208 in February 2018.

The lawmakers also suggested that Britain could, as part of regulatory reforms, position itself as a global center for crypto trading.

The digital currency exchange Coinbase contributed to the report as part of its work with trade body CryptoUK. In an email to CNBC on Tuesday, Coinbase UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz said the U.K. would need to introduce reforms quickly or risk losing out.

“The UK is in a race with other financial hubs around the world who are also vying to become the world’s crypto capital, so it’s important that this regulation is implemented as quickly as possible,” he said.

Regulation surrounding cryptocurrencies is underdeveloped around the world. The United States has suggested that the digital assets should be subject to federal laws by considering them as securities.

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AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson to step aside after nearly 20 years

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson will step aside in 2019 after 20 years running the nation’s largest chain of auto dealerships.

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Jackson will transition from his current role of chairman, CEO and president to executive chairman next year. In that role, he has extended his contract until 2021.

AutoNation’s board has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to find a replacement, and will consider both internal and external candidates.

Jackson is credited with being a transformative leader, who formed a single brand and strategy around a collection of dealerships around the country. He was hired by AutoNation founder Wayne Huizenga, while Jackson was head of Mercedes-Benz of America.

Since Jackson took over in October of 1999, AutoNation has generated about a 340 percent return for shareholders, the company said. In 2017, AutoNation’s revenue rose to $21.5 billion.

During his tenure, he focused the business on sales, service and finance, and expanded the dealership inventory beyond U.S. auto brands into a three-way split between domestics, luxury cars and imports.

He was a strong advocate for the automotive industry on issues around fuel and during the financial crisis, when large U.S. automakers like General Motors were struggling.

“The timing is right to transition the company to the next leader,” Jackson said in a statement.

AutoNation has been expanding its business to newer businesses, including services such as collision repair. It also is expanding its online presence.

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This SoftBank-funded startup was founded by a 24-year-old to glam up budget hotels, and it's just launched in the UK

Oyo founder Ritesh AgarwalOyo founder Ritesh Agarwal.Oyo

  • Indian hotel marketplace Oyo has expanded into the UK. It aims to partner with budget British hotels to standardising their decor and service.
  • Oyo offers a marketplace of mostly budget hotel rooms via its app, hoping to create a level of standardisation of service and decor at low-cost hotels.
  • The company was founded by 24-year-old Indian entrepreneur Ritesh Agarwal, and has raised $450 million to date from investors such as SoftBank’s Vision Fund, Lightspeed, and Sequoia.

Indian startup Oyo has launched in the UK to try and raise the standards of budget hotels across the country.

The UK is Oyo’s first market outside of Asia, where it has racked up a network of more than 200,000 rooms across India, Malaysia, China, and Nepal.

The startup has appointed Coco di Mama cofounder, Jeremy Warner, to run its British business, and plans to invest £40 million ($53 million) in the UK.

The startup will become available in 10 cities over the next 18 months, and already has several hotels in its launch city of London.

Oyo is like a mix of Airbnb and WeWork. The premise in the UK is that Oyo takes unloved budget hotels, brings them into its franchise under the Oyo brand, and then renovates them to a particular standard.

The startup promises to take the management load off independent hotel owners, and to boost their bookings. It takes a cut from room bookings, and benefits from adding to its huge network of rooms around the world.

The upside for hotel customers is that they can travel to a particular city and expect a consistent type of decor and service from an Oyo hotel.

The startup already has a physical presence in London and is targeting a mix of locations in the city. It has one “townhouse” in Paddington and another in Ilford, an unglamorous location in east London.

Customers can book rooms through the Oyo app, or through third-party aggregators like Booking.com.

Oyo townhouseAn Oyo Townhouse in Paddington.Oyo

Oyo has generated major hype in its home market, not least because of its youthful founder, 24-year-old Ritesh Agarwal, who bases himself Gurgaon, on the outskirts of Delhi, India.

While at university, Agarwal won $100,000 from the Thiel Fellowship, a grant for budding entrepreneurs that requires them to drop out of college. He has raised $450 million to date from top-tier backers including Sequoia, Lightspeed, Greenoak, and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

The company is rumoured by the Indian media to be in the process of raising a further $800 million to $1 billion, at a valuation of $4 billion, although Agarwal was tight-lipped about this in a call with Business Insider.

“We continually get inbounds,” he said. “There is no specific view on capital raising right now.”

He added that Oyo wasn’t a particularly capital-intensive business and had a “healthy balance sheet,” though he didn’t provide further financial detail.

Agarwal bills Oyo as a way to rejuvenate struggling local hotels and, by extension, their neighbourhoods. The messaging has echoes of WeWork founder Adam Neumann, another SoftBank entrepreneur who regularly draws on the importance of “community.”

Agarwal said: “If you think about London, every [area] had its own neighbourhood hotel, a butcher’s… these are all slowly disappearing in the face of big businesses showing up. Oyo’s goal is to try and keep the originality of the neighbourhood hotel while upgrading them with great quality design and customer service.

“At the same time,” he added. “[Hotel] owners see significantly more return when franchised or leased by us. That’s the principle we’ve taken.”

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Apple is going to track your calls and emails and give your device a 'trust score' to combat fraud

Tim CookApple CEO Tim Cook.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Apple is going to start using your phone call and email data in an attempt to combat fraud.
  • The data will give devices a “trust score,” and it could help Apple detect fraudulent transactions, reviews, and accounts.
  • The plans were spotted when iTunes quietly updated its privacy policy.

Apple will start using call and email data to calculate trust scores for your devices in a bid to combat fraud.

First spotted by Venture Beat, a new provision has quietly appeared updated in the iTunes Store privacy page:

“To help identify and prevent fraud, information about how you use your device, including the approximate number of phone calls or emails you send and receive, will be used to compute a device trust score when you attempt a purchase. The submissions are designed so Apple cannot learn the real values on your device. The scores are stored for a fixed time on our servers.”

Essentially, Apple will assign devices “trust scores” based on phone call and email data. Gizmodo said this could help Apple police fraudulent purchases, reviews, and accounts. But as Apple makes clear, the data won’t sit on its servers forever.

The update comes at a time when US lawmakers are asking Apple how it handles the personal data of its users. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been consistently strident in his view that hoarding personal data is a bad thing,

“We felt strongly about privacy when no one cared,” Cook said in June. “We could not see the specific details, but we could see that the building of the detailed profile on people likely would result in significant harm over time.”

Business Insider has contacted Apple for comment.

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YouTube Gaming app to close, many features move to main site

In brief: YouTube Gaming, the standalone app dedicated to gaming content, is being killed off in spring next year. The majority of its features, however, will continue through a new page on the main YouTube site.

Appearing in YouTube’s left navigation bar, YouTube.com/gaming is the site’s revamped gaming hub that will highlight personalized content at the top of the page. There’s a carousel of top live games along with new and upcoming live streams from subscribed channels, as well as trending videos and recommended videos based on your subscriptions and history.

There are also Game Pages, letting users view content from across YouTube related to a specific title. This includes live streams along with other games from the same publisher or developer. You can subscribe to individual Game Pages, letting you keep up to date with all the latest videos covering your favorite titles.

The YouTube Gaming app launched back in August 2015 as a competitor for industry leader Twitch. It included many of the Amazon-owned site’s features, such as Game Pages and Channel Memberships, but while gaming was and is one of the most viewed topics on YouTube—over 200 million people watch related content every day—that popularity wasn’t mirrored in the app. 11 million people installed YouTube Gaming across iOS and Android, but daily users paled in comparison to those on Twitch’s app.

“…in 2015, we launched YouTube Gaming, a standalone app for gamers where we tested new features like Game Pages for better discoverability, Super Chat and Channel Memberships to help fans show support for their favorite creators, Dark Theme and even a new live streaming platform based on the gaming community’s feedback,” said YouTube product director Christina Chen.

“The response to these features has been so positive that we brought them over from the YouTube Gaming app to the main YouTube experience. We also want to do more to help our smaller creators grow on YouTube too. So we’ll be highlighting gaming creators who are ‘On The Rise’ on the Gaming destination and in Trending.”

Some of the app’s features, including streaming gameplay live from your phone, aren’t available at the new destination, but the company will work on moving more elements across before the YouTube Gaming app is shuttered in March or April 2019.

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Here’s an expensive titanium case for your expensive iPhone XS

Ultra-premium case manufacturer Gray has turned its attention to the recently announced iPhone XS with a new lineup of titanium phone cases that cost significantly more than the handset itself. The cases range from the grey Alter Ego Titanium which you can get for $1,460, and stretch right through to the pearlescent Alter Ego Aurora which retails for $2,768 — almost double the price of the most expensive 512GB iPhone XS Max.

Although Gray advertises that the case “turns your phone into an object of mystery and power,” in more practical terms the case has an X-shaped design that straps on to the rear of the device, and mainly protects the phone’s four corners with its titanium construction.

For an extra $36, Gray will even engrave your name into the case, which will one day serve to memorialize your questionable life choices.

The iPhone protector even comes with an accessory all its own: a fancy box that you can use to exhibit the Alter Ego when it’s not in use. Sadly the box is “only” made out of aluminum, says its maker, although it’s apparently “aerospace grade” if you’re into that sort of thing.

Gray hasn’t announced whether its ultra-expensive iPhone XS case will be receiving a protective sheath of its own, but after spending this much money you wouldn’t want to risk dropping it.

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