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  • New Media (NEWM) is all Set to Bring Gannett Under its Wings

    New Media (NEWM) is all Set to Bring Gannett Under its Wings

    New Media's (NEWM) merger with Gannett is likely to create one of the strongest entities in the publishing industry.

  • Bloomberg

    Come On, EPA! Don’t Give Polluters a Scientific Smokescreen.

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Trump administration has developed a way to make pollution sound appealing. President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has a plan to relax regulations to allow Americans to be exposed to more dirty air. But the agency has dressed it up to look like it’s just advocating the use of stronger, more transparent science.The policy, sometimes called the “secret science” plan, was released in the spring of 2018, and after some criticism, went back to the drawing board for revision. The idea was to raise the scientific bar for studies that can be considered in making regulations — in particular, disallowing those in which data on human subjects was kept secret for privacy reasons. This week, the New York Times published a leaked version of the updated policy. Critics say the new plan’s scope is even worse than the original — better for industry, that is, worse for people who breathe air.How much scientific proof do you need to recognize that pollution is bad for you? There are already dozens of studies showing connections between particulate matter and cardiovascular disease, and if that isn’t enough, there’s growing evidence linking air pollution with Alzheimer’s Disease.One of the most prominent studies that might be disallowed is a 1993 Harvard project that tracked 22,000 people in six cities and led to the conclusion that air pollution caused some people to die. But the complete raw data aren’t available for others to recheck the results.Critics quoted in the journal Science and the New York Times said that the new policy would allow the EPA to throw out high quality studies where some personal data were kept secret to protect the privacy of human subjects — possibly disqualifying studies that conclude that typical environmental exposure to mercury and lead had damaged the brains of kids. (Thanks to resulting regulations, lead exposures are a fraction of what they were in the mid-20th century).There are reasonable arguments about how to balance scientific openness with personal privacy. But the problems of resolving that issue shouldn’t open the door to easing up on polluters.There’s a dishonesty at the core of the new EPA policy, which is revealed in former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s reference to the replication crisis — a problem that has beset psychology and other areas of social science, where many researchers seemed to misunderstand the statistical tools they were using. Similar problems have plagued some areas of medical research, where a publish-or-perish culture encouraged bad practices.Several attempts to systematically replicate a sample of published experiments has shown that many were not as solid as claimed. That was all too common in the social sciences.In contrast, there are dozens of follow-up studies on air pollution concluding that it is killing people. Sometimes follow-ups show that a supposed threat isn’t real — as do the hundreds of studies on vaccines that have debunked an initial claim that they’re linked to autism. The important thing is that there’s a mountain of research.But historically, environmental studies have tended to underplay risk. Industry-funded studies on lead allowed millions of children to be exposed to brain-damaging levels. The dangers of climate change were underestimated. Some journalists, trying to hype the replication problem, wrongly insinuated that all of science was corrupt. The Trump people are using that popular misconception to make themselves look good while making the world a worse place to live.To contact the author of this story: Faye Flam at fflam1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Faye Flam is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She has written for the Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Psychology Today, Science and other publications. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Too Many Young Men Still Aren’t Working

    Too Many Young Men Still Aren’t Working

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- In January 2010, with the Great Recession technically over but employers not yet adding jobs, a breakthrough in American labor markets and gender relations transpired. That month, a higher percentage of women aged 20 through 24 were employed than men in that age range. This was, as best I can tell, the first time women in any of the age brackets tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics had ever outdone their male peers in employment-population ratio, or Epop.It was also the last. As soon as hiring started again, young men returned to the workforce more rapidly than young women, and young men’s Epop went back to being several percentage points higher than young women’s.Lately, though, the lines tracking this labor market statistic have been converging again.It’s not as if young women are breaking new employment records: their Epop is still one-and-a-half percentage points below its 2001 peak. Young men’s Epop, meanwhile, is more than nine percentage points below its 2000 peak, and five percentage points below the high it reached during the last expansion, in 2006. This is happening even as prime-age (25-54) men have been returning to the workforce after some tough times, as I wrote last week. And while a large share of people in their early 20s are still in school, young women are more likely to be enrolled in college than young men are, so that can’t be what’s causing the convergence.(3) Something strange is going on with young men and the labor market.Last year Jeanna Smialek (then at Bloomberg, now at the New York Times) made a similar observation based on employment data for men and women in the 25-34 age range. There the Epop lines are nowhere near converging — mainly because the women are much more likely to be at home taking care of kids, with a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data finding that in 2016 about 30% of mothers aged 20 to 35 were stay-at-home parents, compared with 6% of fathers — but women similarly gained a lot of ground during the recession and, after losing some of it through about mid-2015, have been gaining again since. This chart that I’ve updated from Smialek’s article also shows that while 25-to-34-year-old women are now just as likely to be employed as those in the 35-44 age cohort, 25-to-34-year-old men are now markedly less likely to be employed than those slightly older.Finally, here’s an international comparison. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of the world’s affluent democracies, publishes annual estimates of the share of young people who are not in employment, education or training, or Neet. The 14% U.S. Neet share for men aged 20-24 was just slightly higher than the OECD average of 13.4% in 2018, but that average was driven up by a few large economies with major Neet problems, namely France (21%), Spain (23.3%), Italy (27.5%). Here are four countries that had higher young men’s Neet shares than the U.S. in the late 1990s and are all lower or about even with it now.What’s keeping young American men out of the workforce? Well, that’s the big question. In a 2016 commencement speech at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago that has since become the target of some mockery in online economics circles, economics professor Erik Hurst proposed that improvements in video games and other electronic amusements might be luring young men to stay home and play rather than look for work. Young men without jobs are certainly spending a lot of time amusing themselves with video game consoles and computers: an average of 12 hours a week among those ages 21 through 30, up from 5.4 hours in the mid-2000s, Hurst and three other economists reported in a subsequent working paper based on data from the American Time Use Survey.But Gray Kimbrough, a government economist and American University adjunct professor, has found in his own analyses of ATUS data that the rise in time that non-working young men devote to video games has been accompanied by a similar decline in time spent watching television, which suggests that video games are displacing other amusements rather than work. And even Hurst and his co-authors conclude that declining labor demand has played a bigger role than video games in reducing young men’s employment.Still, there does seem to be a mix of economic and social factors at work here. There are recent economics papers, for example, arguing that less-educated young men’s chances of getting married have declined because it’s harder for them to get good jobs and, conversely, that less-educated young men have become less interested in getting jobs because their chances of marriage have declined. The growing number of young men who live with mom and dad is surely the result of forces beyond just a tough labor market. High real estate prices in some parts of the country and big student debt burdens for some young people have made it harder to strike out on one’s own, while larger houses, smaller families and (perhaps) more indulgent parents have made it easier to stay home. Immigrant families have also brought a taste for multigenerational living that had died out among native-born Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. About 37% of 25-year-old men in the U.S. lived with their parents in 2017, according to Kimbrough’s analysis of Census Bureau data, compared with 31% of 25-year-old women — and just 16% of 25-year-old men in 1970.This living-with-the-parents phenomenon may in turn be partly responsible for what one regular survey indicates is a sharp rise since 2008 in the percentage of men ages 18 to 29 who have never had sex, although evidence on that from other data sources is mixed. It may also ease the pressure on young men to find work. Whatever the reasons, there is now a small but larger-than-it-used-to-be minority of American men in their 20s who seem to be making no progress in achieving the markers of adulthood: get a job, move out of the house, get married, have kids. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Noah Smith this week offered a compelling set of reasons for why it takes longer to get established in careers than it used to, which is delaying things like marriage and homeownership. But what I’m describing seems like a distinct and gender-specific phenomenon, if not a totally unrelated one.Meanwhile, young women’s labor market gains relative to young men haven’t exactly translated into labor market equality. Women aged 20 through 24 may now be as likely to have jobs as men their age, but they’re less likely to have full-time jobs — partly because more of them are in college, admittedly — and even those who do work full-time are paid less than men. The gender pay gap is smaller for the 20-24 age group than for any other, with full-time female workers earning 90.3% as much per week as their male peers in the third quarter of this year, but it hasn’t narrowed over the past couple of decades.(2)Young men with jobs are doing OK. It’s the ones who’ve never had one who might be a problem.(1) College enrollment rates have also fallen recently, and have fallen more among men than among women.(2) This percentage can jump around a lot from quarter to quarter, and has gone as high as 99% (in the fourth quarter of 2002), but the average since 2000 is 92.4%, and the average for the past five years is 91.7%. Female part-time workers, for whatever it's worth, made slightly more than male part-timers in the third quarter.To contact the author of this story: Justin Fox at justinfox@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Go Ahead, Call It a Quid Pro Quo

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- What did the president quid and when did he quo it? That’s the question being earnestly debated at the impeachment hearings centering on Donald Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Congressional Democrats insist that Trump made military aid contingent on an investigation of a political rival. One news story after another has referred to the alleged arrangement as a quid pro quo.But is quid pro quo the right term? Some experts think not. The other day, the New York Times published a letter from 33 writers asking journalists to stop using the phrase in accounts of the Ukraine controversy because “most people don’t understand what it means, and in any case it doesn’t refer only to a crime.” In referring to the question of whether Trump pressured Zelenskiy, they write, it’s more accurate to say “extortion” or “bribery” — because “words make a difference.” The letter concludes: “Please use precise and forceful language that reveals the struggle in which we now find ourselves. It’s a matter of survival.”Although the card-carrying Grammar Curmudgeon in me suspects that the late William Safire would have a word or two to say about this use of the verb “reveal,” I agree on the importance of “precise and forceful language.” And in describing what Trump is alleged to have demanded from Zelenskiy, no form of words is more precise and forceful than “quid pro quo.”The phrase has been adopted into English unchanged from its Latin roots. It means, literally, “something for something.” (Quo is simply the ablative singular form of quid.) According to the Oxford English Dictionary, when quid pro quo is used nowadays as a noun, its meaning is exactly what we tend to think: “The action or principle of giving one thing in return or exchange for another” especially “as part of a bargain.”In 1871, a Chicago magazine published a nonsense verse, playing on the words: “If Quid is Quo And Quo is Quid,/ You nothing owe Old Quo, old Quid!” Except the verse isn’t really nonsense. In contract law, the phrase has long carried this meaning of mutual exchange, the giving of something in order to receive something. So studiously have judges tried to ensure that both parties benefit from a contract that a Kentucky court two centuries ago proclaimed that “The ‘quid pro quo’ is the delight of the law.”  Certainly the phrase constitutes a delight of the language, a simple yet mellifluous way to describe the exchange relationship, and equally suited to bargains formal or informal, fair of unfair, legal or illegal.Most people instinctively understand quid pro quo in this sense, as a deal, an exchange of this-for-that. Just last month, ESPN described the implicit deal between the notoriously cheap Tampa Bay Rays baseball team and their players as “the quid pro quo of being a Ray: We’ll help you get better, we’ll support you for you, but trust us when we ask you to do something, because we’re good at this.” In the fall of 2018, Senator Susan Collins of Maine used the term “classic quid pro quo” to refer to threats by activists to give money to her opponent unless she voted against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.The phrase is commonly used by journalists even when questions of criminal behavior arise. The FBI, reported the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, “is investigating how Puerto Rico awarded some public contracts and whether various companies engaged in quid pro quo arrangements to win government business.” I don’t imagine that readers mistook this language to refer to legitimate deals.Perhaps the best-known example from popular culture occurs in the 1991 film “The Silence of the Lambs,” when the imprisoned Hannibal Lecter promises to help FBI trainee Clarice Starling catch the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. In return for his help, however, she must answer Lecter’s questions about her own life. “Quid pro quo,” he explains. “I tell you things, you tell me things.” A moment later, when it is Lecter’s turn to provide information, Clarice says “Quid pro quo, doctor.” No one misses the point:  She is reminding him of — what else? — their bargain.(1)Contrary to the implication in the letter to the Times, few people are confused by the phrase. The meaning of the July 25 conversation between Trump and Zelenskiy may be contested, but the charge is essentially that Trump was proposing an exchange. It’s hard to imagine anything quid-pro-quoier.That’s why, as Steven Pinker nicely puts it, “The lack of a quo for the quid has become a talking point among his defenders.” Pinker is skeptical that this claim passes the giggle test — but it’s important to note what the claim is. A quid pro quo, Trump’s defenders say, requires an explicit offer of a deal. They deny that any deal was on the table. Those who are calling for impeachment are with Pinker.Whichever side you find yourself on, this is the right debate to have.  To dispense with “quid pro quo” and substitute “bribery” or “extortion” would only sow confusion. Bribery and extortion are crimes, but they have precise and subtle definitions that may not be well understood by non-lawyers. So let’s keep things simple. Let’s first determine whether the president really proposed a bargain. Only if the answer is yes do we have to decide whether the quid he demanded for his quo broke the law.(1) If you happen to like your incidences a bit co-, you might want to follow me down one last rabbit hole.I mentioned above that the serial killer chased by Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” is called Buffalo Bill.The Oxford English Dictionary, as one of its examples of traditional usage of “quid pro quo,” provides a play on words from “Sunny South,” an 1860 pro-Southern tract by one J. H. Ingraham:“All things being equal—that is, the quid being equal to the quo as my brother used to say.”J. H. Ingraham was the father of Prentiss Ingraham, the Confederate officer who after the Civil War garnered fame as the author of a series of still-popular books about ... Buffalo Bill.To contact the author of this story: Stephen L. Carter at scarter01@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Apple Plans Mega Bundle of Music, News, TV as Early as 2020

    Apple Plans Mega Bundle of Music, News, TV as Early as 2020

    (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. is considering bundling its paid internet services, including News+, Apple TV+ and Apple Music, as soon as 2020, in a bid to gain more subscribers, according to people familiar with the matter.The latest sign of this strategy is a provision that Apple included in deals with publishers that lets the iPhone maker bundle the News+ subscription service with other paid digital offerings, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private deals.Apple News+, which debuted in March, sells access to dozens of publications for $10 a month. It’s often called the “Netflix of News.” Apple keeps about half of the monthly subscription price, while magazines and newspapers pocket the other half.If Apple sold Apple News+ as part of a bundle with Apple TV+ and Apple Music, publishers would get less money because the cost of the news service would likely be reduced, the people said.As the smartphone market stagnates, Apple is seeking growth by selling online subscriptions to news, music, video and other content. This month, it launched Apple TV+ for $4.99 a month with shows from stars including Jennifer Aniston and Jason Momoa.Bundling these offerings could attract more subscribers, as Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime service has done. Apple is already experimenting with this kind of approach. It recently began offering a free Apple TV+ subscription to students who are Apple Music subscribers. Still, the company’s plans may change, given how complex deals like these can be.Some media executives say the amount they’ve received from Apple News+ so far has been less than expected. One publisher typically gets under $20,000 a month, less revenue than it saw from Texture, a previous iteration of the service that Apple acquired last year, one person said.Apple News+ offers dozens of magazines, like the New Yorker, GQ and People, as well as major newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. Bloomberg Businessweek, owned by Bloomberg LP, also participates.It remains unclear whether publishers are seeing less revenue than they expected because Apple News+ has few subscribers, or because their content isn’t being widely read. Publishers share the remaining 50% of the revenue based on how much time Apple News+ subscribers spend reading their articles. Apple has not revealed subscriber numbers for Apple News+. The company recently expanded the service to Australia and the U.K.Advertisers have been less interested in Apple News+ because Apple’s restrictive data policy makes it difficult for marketers to target specific readers, one of the people said. Some publishers also would like Apple to share data about subscribers, like email addresses, which they could use to sell other offerings.As part of the contracts, media companies have the right to pull their magazines or newspapers from Apple News+ after a year if they’re unhappy with the service, one person said.The media industry was initially wary of Apple News+ before it launched, fearing their readers might cancel existing subscriptions and get their articles at a cheaper price from Apple. For that reason, some did not make all their articles or magazines available. Others, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, didn’t sign up.Still, some news executives are pleased with how Apple News+ has gone so far.“The financial results to date are consistent with our expectations,” Norm Pearlstine, the executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, said in a statement. “We are optimistic that they will continue to grow in the months and years ahead.”To contact the reporters on this story: Gerry Smith in New York at gsmith233@bloomberg.net;Mark Gurman in San Francisco at mgurman1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Will Ukraine Turn Back to Russia? This Billionaire Thinks So

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- When Igor Kolomoisky says Ukraine should turn away from the West and back toward Russia, the world should listen, even if the Ukrainian billionaire doesn’t call the shots in Kyiv to the extent that many believe he does. Despite the seemingly irreparable damage Russia caused to its relationship with Ukraine by annexing its territory and sustaining a separatist war in its eastern regions, it’s conceivable that Ukraine eventually could return to its old strategy of having Russia and the West compete for its affections.Kolomoisky, whose TV channel ran Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s comedy shows before the actor and producer became Ukraine’s president this year, gave a scandalous interview to the New York Times. He said that since the West is in no hurry to accept Ukraine as a member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Ukraine should make peace with Russia and take Russian money instead of International Monetary Fund loans. As things stand, he said, the U.S. is just using Ukraine to wage “war against Russia to the last Ukrainian.” But Russia is “stronger anyway” and it’s time to mend fences.Kolomoisky was one of the engineers of Ukraine’s decisive break with Russia in 2014. He funded the volunteer battalions that fought off the early onslaught of Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, helping to contain the spread of secession before the long-underfunded regular army was strong enough to be of any use. In the process, he lost his financial business in Russia and gained the Dnipropetrovsk regional governorship in Ukraine, which former President Petro Poroshenko soon took away, seeking to dismantle what he saw as Kolomoisky’s personal army. So what the oligarch is saying now could be seen as a turnabout, except Kolomoisky doesn’t think in such terms: Whatever he says or does, he’s looking out for his business interests first.Today, these interests consist in getting compensation for the 2016 nationalization of Privatbank, Ukraine’s biggest lender, which he co-owned and which the Poroshenko government accused him of plundering. Kolomoisky is tied up in complex litigation with now-state-owned Privatbank. He and his partner have just been forced to pay 10 million pounds ($12.8 million) to cover Ukraine’s legal expenses in a London court. The billionaire is widely suspected of trying to exploit his longstanding relationship with Zelenskiy to end the conflict in his favor. The president so far has managed to remain above the fray, but he hasn’t heeded calls from U.S., European and International Monetary Fund officials to distance himself clearly from Kolomoisky. The oligarch has few friends in Washington or the European capitals, and he used the interview to make an implicit threat: If Western officials continue fighting him and supporting the Privatbank nationalization, he’ll turn Zelenskiy sharply toward Russia. Whether he can do that is a different matter.Zelenskiy was elected on the promise of restoring peace to eastern Ukraine, and he’s taken some steps toward that goal by exchanging prisoners with Russia and accepting a key Russian demand concerning the sequence of events that should lead to the return of separatist territories to Ukrainian control. But even that progress ran into the resistance of Ukrainian intellectuals who see it as capitulation — and of the very volunteers Kolomoisky once funded. These combat veterans, armed with weapons they’d brought back from the war, inserted themselves in areas where Ukraine and the separatists had agreed to pull back their troops as a prelude to “Normandy format” peace talks mediated by France and Germany. Zelenskiy was forced to travel to the area and attempt to persuade them to leave.Now, the pullback appears to be complete, the area is being cleared of mines and there are no obstacles to the talks. But Zelenskiy is aware by now that compromises with Russia are fraught with the danger of a revolt at home, possibly even an armed one. If he did what Kolomoisky says, Kyiv and much of central and western Ukraine almost certainly would rise against him. That’s not a reasonable price to pay for Kolomoisky’s early support, and today, the billionaire has no obvious leverage on the president.Voice, a liberal opposition party, recently proposed that Ukraine exit the 2015 Minsk agreements, which serve as the framework for the current peace process, and put off ending the conflict in the east and concentrate on domestic issues until better times. Zelenskiy is probably tempted to try a version of this plan, only without formally exiting the Minsk agreements, which likely would anger Ukraine’s European allies. Zelenskiy has his hands full with an ambitious reform agenda. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian parliament, in which his party has a majority, took the first step toward allowing a market in land, something all of Ukraine’s previous governments failed to do.Yet Kolomoisky's provocative statements shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.Zelenskiy, indeed, isn’t getting much Western support today, apart from technical and military assistance programs that are, let’s face it, useful but not vitally important. The IMF is withholding its more significant support, in part because it fears Zelenskiy might not try hard enough to recoup Privatbank losses from Kolomoisky. French President Emmanuel Macron lately has been talking about a rapprochement with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and neither France nor Germany can be expected actively to side with Ukraine in the peace talks because both are eager to be rid of the problem. In the U.S., ongoing Ukrainegate and impeachment proceedings have, in effect, made Ukraine the actual country both toxic and irrelevant.Kolomoisky’s point is that, five years after breaking with Russia, Ukraine isn’t a priority project for the West — but it’s still a priority for Putin. Zelenskiy can’t afford, and doesn’t want, to hand his country to the Russian president. But he can quietly open it to more Russian trade and investment, and he can gradually return to the both-sides-against-the-middle policy all Ukrainians leaders except Poroshenko tried to pursue after Ukraine became independent. In a way, that’s also the game Alexander Lukashenko, the president of neighboring Belarus, tries to play, turning to the West every time he has a disagreement with Putin and to Putin when he senses he can get something out of him.This cynical policy is a long way from the “civilizational choice” Ukrainian politicians claimed to have made under Poroshenko. But Western politicians must realize it’s a natural fall back for Ukrainians when they feel spurned. If Zelenskiy does start flirting with Putin, it won’t necessarily be because of Kolomoisky’s evil influence. A Western failure to embrace his reformist zeal and support his attempts to get more favorable peace terms with Russia could be the real reason.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    Roula Khalaf to succeed Lionel Barber as Financial Times editor

    Roula Khalaf has been appointed the next editor of the Financial Times, succeeding Lionel Barber, who is stepping down after a 14-year tenure that put the news organisation on a profitable footing even as its traditional print business was upended. In an email to staff on Tuesday, Mr Barber announced his 34-year career at the paper would end in January when he leaves “the best job in journalism” and is replaced by his deputy, Ms Khalaf. Speaking to a packed newsroom, Mr Barber said he was proud of “restoring the gold standard in FT journalism” and building a sustainable business during “tumultuous times”.

  • The Other Quid Pro Quo Scandal in Ukraine

    The Other Quid Pro Quo Scandal in Ukraine

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Since the Ukraine scandal broke open in September, a narrative has set in: President Donald Trump was using Ukraine’s president to influence American politics. Last week, a new narrative came into focus: A Ukrainian prosecutor was trying to use Trump to influence Ukrainian politics.In the first story, Trump is the instigator of a corrupt bargain, attempting to enlist Ukraine’s new president in a plot to influence the 2020 election. A cascade of witnesses from Trump’s own government has supported this version of events, saying Trump wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.The other story has received less attention but is just as scandalous. A corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor was trying to enlist a close adviser to Trump to fire an ambassador who threatened his position and standing. This story revolves around Trump’s decision to prematurely end the term of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was sent to Kiev in 2016 and left her post in May. Testimony released last week suggests that Yovanovitch was smeared and fired because Ukrainian general prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, who left his own post in August, had a vendetta against her.In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, George Kent, the State Department’s Ukraine expert, said Lutsenko enlisted former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his campaign against Yovanovitch. According to Kent, Lutsenko provided Giuliani with information on Yovanovitch “in hopes that he would spread it and lead to her removal.”Giuliani told the New York Times that when he met with Lutsenko last spring in New York, “He didn’t say to me, ‘I came here to get Yovanovitch fired.’” But he nevertheless surmised that’s what Lutsenko wanted.The question is why. According to Giuliani, Lutsenko had been blocked from getting his information — such as his claim that Yovanovitch had given him a “do not prosecute” list of individuals — to proper U.S. officials. Yovanovitch and other witnesses have denied this claim, and she has also said she encouraged Lutsenko to seek meetings with the FBI and Justice Department through the bureau’s legal attaché in Kiev.The ambassador has an alternative theory for why Lutsenko wanted her fired. “I think that he felt that I and the embassy were effective at helping Ukrainians who wanted to reform,” she testified. Yovanovitch said Lutsenko initially promised to clean up the powerful office of the general prosecutor, saying he would prosecute the people who fired on protesters who forced former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych out of office in 2014. Lutsenko also promised to try and recover more than $40 billion stolen by Yanukovych and his cronies.Yet over time, Yovanovitch said, Lutsenko proved unwilling or unable to pursue those goals even as she pressed him to do so. “We continued to encourage him,” she said. “And I don’t think he really appreciated it.”All of this gets more intriguing in light of last month’s indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Ukrainian Americans, for illegal campaign contributions to Republican candidates through front companies. Parnas enlisted Giuliani in a consulting firm with the unfortunate name of “Fraud Guarantee.” This week it was reported that Giuliani was paid $500,000 for his role in the venture by a Republican donor based in Long Island.The indictment of Parnas and Fruman says they sought to use their political influence to further the interests of a foreign official, reported to be Lutsenko. One of the beneficiaries of their political donations, former Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, was an early advocate for firing Yovanovitch.So there appear to be at least two quid pro quos in the Ukraine scandal. The first is Trump’s effort to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The second is Lutsenko’s effort to get Trump to fire Yovanovitch. Giuliani is in the middle of both. Says Alina Polyakova, a Ukraine expert at the Brookings Institution: “He was using his influence with the president to try to get his clients what they wanted, while at the same time getting the president what he wanted.”Some of this is attributable to weaknesses in American law and politics. The law Congress created to force Americans to register as foreign agents when they represent a foreign country or business went largely unenforced for 50 years before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. And Trump distrusts the experts in his own government, instead relying on the counsel of foreign policy amateurs like Giuliani.Whatever the outcome of the Ukraine scandal, it has already laid bare a bitter irony: Official U.S. efforts to make Ukrainian politics less corrupt were stymied by a campaign to make American politics more like Ukraine’s.To contact the author of this story: Eli Lake at elake1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at mnewman43@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Do 125,000 Farmers Deserve $14.3 Billion?

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy — also known as CAP — is a 58-billion-euro ($64 billion) system of farm aid that accounts for the bloc’s biggest single budget expense. And it has long been a punching bag for euroskeptics.The U.K. press for years excoriated the “wine lakes” and “butter mountains” supported by EU money. Even after the production quotas went away, critics accused the EU of trade protectionism meant to squeeze rivals. The EU’s defense is that the system is more market-oriented and eco-friendly than it used to be.Today it’s no longer just the Brits grumbling. In fact, the U.K.’s looming departure from the EU may leave a 98 billion-euro hole in the next EU budget and that shortfall has exposed deep discontent on the continent. Germany is loath to fill the gap and wants individual member states to contribute more for farm subsidies, something France —  still the biggest overall recipient of CAP funds —  is resisting. Unlike some of its thrifty neighbors who want to keep a lid on costs, France wants a more ambitious system. French President Emmanuel Macron is fighting the view popularized by author Michel Houellebecq and others that Brussels is too weak and beholden to free trade to defend France’s local terroirs from competition.It would be easier to build popular support for a bold new CAP if its hypocrisies weren’t so apparent to voters. The system only costs around 0.4% of the EU’s gross domestic product, but it's distributed in wildly unequal ways. Europe’s capitals are frequently awash in tales of well-heeled landowners receiving millions in EU aid — including the wealthy, Brexit-loving entrepreneur James Dyson — which should ideally go to those who actually need a financial boost.  One well-known statistic is that about 80% of EU agricultural aid goes to the top 20% of farmers; in absolute terms, according to 2017 data, some 125,000 beneficiaries get around 12.9 billion euros ($14.3 billion) in aid. That’s about 103,000 euros ($113,500) per farmer.Given the EU is advertising itself as a “geopolitical” defender of the Western liberal order and protector of citizens’ way of life, another awkward problem with the CAP is the corruption and cronyism it fosters within. A New York Times investigation this week revealed how the CAP has propped up the likes of Hungary’s Viktor Orban via farmland sold to his allies, and sent tens of millions of dollars to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s company Agrofert. With EU aid now doled out directly by the hectare, the wine lake and the butter mountain have been replaced by land-grabs based on patronage and directed at insiders , according to one 2015 study.More accountability and transparency would help, as would the centralized ability to link EU aid to recipients who have a healthy respect for the rule of law and democracy. But member states would have to agree to give up the power they enjoy when it comes to allocating aid. They have a bothersome habit of watering down sensible proposals such as putting a cap on the size of farm handouts or conditioning them on certain goals. Brussels does audit the money trail to fight fraud and error, which it estimates represents about 2.4% of farm aid, but its resources aren’t limitless.One idea raised by Alan Matthews, professor emeritus of European agricultural policy at Trinity College, is to tie aid to something that’s popular and a top priority for the new European Commission — the environment. Rather than just call for a hard cap of, say, 50,000 euros per beneficiary (which countries would fight), he suggests a soft cap above which aid would be tied to climate-friendly, sustainable farming initiatives. Big farms, however politically-connected, would have to show they can offer a public good in exchange for public funds.This is superficially the same message being sent by the U.K. government to its own farmers as a way to replace EU subsidies after Brexit: Aid should be earned by eco-friendly initiatives, not paid by the hectare. It’s easier said than done, and the state of U.K. agriculture without membership in the EU’s single market is hard to predict. But considering it will take time, money and political trade-offs to improve the EU’s flawed system, a small step like this — particularly if it proves to the naysayers that Europe can be reformed — is surely worth it.To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at llaurent2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Thomson Reuters StreetEvents

    Edited Transcript of NYT earnings conference call or presentation 6-Nov-19 1:00pm GMT

    Q3 2019 New York Times Co Earnings Call

  • Bloomberg

    There’s No Such Thing as Millennials or Boomers

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Most of the stereotypes tied to so-called generations are ugly and insulting — whether it’s the greed and materialism associated with “boomers,” the narcissism and entitlement associated with “millennials,” or the aimlessness associated with “Gen X.”Such unpleasantness is not only mean-spirited but also scientifically wrongheaded. The closer researchers look, the more arbitrary they find the boundaries between so-called generations. There’s no evidence that any sorts of personality traits or character flaws go along with so-called boomers, Gen X-ers, millennials or members of Gen Z.You’d think from the seriousness with which people take these things that, rather than continuously producing babies, humans collectively spawn just once every 20 years. Generational labels cropped up just a few days ago in a medical report claiming that millennials are in worse health than were so-called Gen X people at the same age.Around the same time, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd  generated chatter by writing about her own self-perceived boomer status, using the recent exit of Representative Katie Hill to preach to so-called millennials about the hazards of letting people take nude photos of you. It’s good advice, but it didn’t have to be about generations at all. It could instead be about experience, and hard-won lessons about the ways love sometimes goes rotten.But it’s so much more exciting to invoke generational warfare. People love generation labels in the way they love astrological sign categories — maybe Ms. Hill would still be in office if she’d known not to trust a Scorpio. Some people get deep meaning out of astrology despite a total lack of evidence. Both kinds of labels are social constructs — they affect us only because so many people believe in them.“When you dig into research into differences in discrete generations, there’s no evidence they exist,” says Cort Rudolph, a psychologist at Saint Louis University who has studied age and work-related behavior. “All this generation stuff is total nonsense.”There are two real things that are going on, however. One is that as people age, they go through different stages in life — not quite in lock step, since people reach various maturity levels and adulthood milestones at different times (or not at all). But there’s a progression.And there are events (wars, recessions) and new technologies which may affect those in college or seeking their first jobs differently from those who are older and more established.But those things don’t create generational boundaries. Different studies use different boundaries between the major generations, says Rudolph, making the whole notion of generations into a moving target and therefore not conducive to scientific probing. People roughly classify “boomers” as those between their late 50s and early 70s, Gen X as those in their late 30s to early 50s, and millennials as those in their 20s to late 30s, but this is always shifting, leaving many of us unsure what generation we’re supposed to be in.A few years ago, the U.S. Army funded research into generations to learn how to convince young people to stay in the military. George Washington University psychologist David Costanza, who was involved in that effort, says there was a theory floating around that historical events — such as wars and economic shifts — shaped whole cohorts of people, giving them distinct traits.It’s not that wars, depressions and disease outbreaks such as AIDS don’t shape people — they do. But not, it would seem, in any uniform or predictable way across artificially drawn generational categories. There’s a stereotype that so-called millennials are narcissistic job-hoppers because they have helicopter parents, he says, and that something about the Vietnam War made baby Boomers materialistic.His research suggests that’s all wrong. Millennials are no more narcissistic than anyone else, he says, and not unusually fickle about jobs. A bad economy may force young people to take undesirable first jobs — from which many will hop to something more rewarding when the economy improves. The big misconception, he says, is that merely being in a particular “generation” will endow you with certain traits.Last month, psychologists at UC Santa Barbara published a paper in Science Advances called “Kids These Days: Why Youth of Today Seem Lacking.” They found there’s nothing wrong with kids these days, even though many older people wrongly think younger people have less respect for elders and less love for reading than they themselves had when young.The authors looked into ways to cure these bad assumptions. What they found was that, in the case of reading, if they wrongly told good readers they scored poorly in a test of literary achievement, then suddenly those people got over themselves and they cut younger people more slack.Perhaps younger people, too, might not be so quick to judge so-called boomers if they were not so confident in their own technological proficiency and small carbon footprints. The good news is that with the rise of Gen Z, those who make up these trendy labels will very soon run out of letters. If we’re lucky, that will help put an end to them.To contact the author of this story: Faye Flam at fflam1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Faye Flam is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She has written for the Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Psychology Today, Science and other publications. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Instagram Will Remove ‘Likes’ From Posts for Some U.S. Users

    Instagram Will Remove ‘Likes’ From Posts for Some U.S. Users

    (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc.’s Instagram plans to remove the number of “likes” visible on posts for some users in the U.S. to decrease competitive pressure among people on the photo-sharing service.Instagram has been hiding like counts in some markets since April, beginning in Canada, and later expanding to Japan and Brazil. The U.S. is one of Instagram’s largest markets with more than 106 million users, according to data analyst EMarketer.“What we’re hoping to do is depressurize Instagram a little bit, and make it a bit less of a competition,” Instagram boss Adam Mosseri told Bloomberg after announcing the new test at a conference in San Francisco sponsored by Wired magazine. “The idea is to try and reduce anxiety and social comparisons, specifically with an eye towards young people.”Users will still be able to see the likes they receive on their posts if they want, but those metrics won’t be visible to others on Instagram, the company said. Mosseri said the test will begin next week, and will impact just a portion of Instagram’s U.S. user base.Instagram’s follower counts and likes have made it one of the top places online to compare one’s popularity with others, especially among teens and young adults. The company has tried for years to combat the competitive trend by promoting good role models via posts on its @instagram account, hoping to reflect the parts of the app that are about creativity and art as opposed to self-promotion. Still, striving for the metrics was irresistible for its users, contributing to mental health issues and other ills, like users paying for fake likes and followers from bots.Even some of the app’s most prolific celebrities have said a service without likes may be healthier for its users.“It would be really beneficial,” said Kim Kardashian, speaking at the New York Times DealBook conference on Wednesday. Kardashian, who has 151 million Instagram followers and regularly receives more than 1 million likes on her posts, said the Instagram team has been discussing the changes with select users to get feedback, “and that makes me happy.”Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been at the center of debate around issues like smartphone addiction and online health in recent years. As a result, product “health” has become a priority at the social-media companies, which are trying to balance the need to drive user growth and engagement with the outside perception that they are contributing to problems such as online bullying.Instagram, for example, has also announced a feature where users can limit the amount of time they spend on the app in a given day. Apple Inc. built a similar “time spent” feature into its iPhone software, and Google offers tools like this for Android phones. Twitter has a beta version of its main product that hides engagement metrics, including likes and retweets, from user replies and interactions.(Updates with quote from Mosseri.)\--With assistance from Sarah Frier and Candy Cheng.To contact the reporter on this story: Kurt Wagner in San Francisco at kwagner71@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack, Alistair BarrFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    A selection of the FT’s biggest stories and best reads every Friday

    Greetings from London, where we’re all extremely excited about the prospect of another election and more rolling political coverage. Keeping me happily distracted from Brexit and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a series of cracking corporate stories, including the departure of the McDonald’s chief executive following a relationship with a colleague and changes at Japanese mega-investor SoftBank — plus the FT’s exposé of pollution on the London Underground.

  • NY Times (NYT) Q3 Earnings Surpass Estimates, Decline Y/Y

    NY Times (NYT) Q3 Earnings Surpass Estimates, Decline Y/Y

    The New York Times Company's (NYT) digital advertising revenues decrease during the third quarter of 2019. Management now expects digital advertising to be "fairly challenging" in the final quarter.

  • The Mancession Is Finally Over

    The Mancession Is Finally Over

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The U.S. labor market has just hit another happy landmark. Of Americans aged 25 through 54 who were neither in military uniform nor behind bars, 80.3% have jobs. That equals the January 2007 high of the last economic expansion.This measure, also known as the prime-age employment-population ratio, or Epop,(2) avoids a key limitation of the headline unemployment rate, which only counts people actively looking for jobs. According to the unemployment rate, the current job market is the best since the late 1960s; according to prime-age Epop, it’s still not as strong as it was in 1999 and 2000.Then again, if you go by Epop the current labor market is much, much stronger than that of the 1960s, which doesn’t sound quite right. The limitation of Epop in measuring labor market conditions is that it also happens to measure societal change. Epop is so much higher now than in the 1960s because more women have joined the paid workforce. Still, that’s easy enough to sort out by looking at men and women separately:To emphasize a few things that may not be immediately obvious from eyeballing the above chart, especially if you’re reading this on a phone:Women’s prime-age Epop is nearly back to the all-time high set in 2000; men’s is still nearly three percentage points below, and more than a percentage point below the peak from the previous expansion. The prime-age Epop gap between men and women shrank to an all-time low in the immediate aftermath of the last recession as men lost jobs at a faster rate (the mancession). It grew again after that as men returned to work at a faster pace (the mancovery), but since 2015 it’s been shrinking again. Men’s prime-age Epop passed 95% several times in the 1950s, and hit it again in the late 1960s. As of October it was 86.5%. To sum up: there are more than five million prime-age men who didn’t have paid jobs in October who would have had them if 1950s/1960s conditions still prevailed and Epop was 95%.What are they doing? The Census Bureau asks about that in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey. In 2018, 10.4% of men aged 25 through 54 (about 6.5 million men) were not in the labor force — that is, not working for pay and not looking for a job. Here are the reasons they gave, and the reasons they’ve given every year since 1991.(1) It may help in reading the chart to be aware that the different causes are listed along the top in the order that they appear on the bars from top to bottom.Being ill or disabled is the main reason prime-age men give for not being in the labor force, and by far the biggest driver of the group’s decline in labor force participation since 1991. Some of this has to do with the outdated design of the Social Security Disability Insurance program, which effectively forces disabled people to choose between leaving the labor force entirely or getting no aid at all. Eligibility changes enacted by Congress in 1984, which made it easier qualify due to hard-to-verify conditions such as chronic pain and mental illness, also enabled its increasing use as a fallback economic safety net, economist David Autor argued in a 2011 paper:The secular decline in earnings and employment opportunities for U.S. workers with high school or lower education over the last three decades has also made SSDI an increasingly attractive option for job losers and long-term unemployed.Over the course of the current business cycle, though, this hasn’t really been that big an issue. The number of new Social Security disability awards peaked in 2010, has fallen 35% since and is now lower than at any time since 2001. The ill/disabled share of prime-age men is up only 0.1 percentage points since 2006.There is the macabre possibility that the sharp rise in opioid deaths, with 317,000 American men dying of drug overdoses from 2007 through 2017, reduced the ill/disabled numbers. But on the whole the message from these data seems to be that the great exodus of prime-age men from work to inactivity, the subject a couple of years back of numerous reports, research papers, opinion columns (including a few by me) and at least one book, has paused or maybe even ended.That research generally painted a picture of men with few educational credentials, and often with a criminal history, seeing so little promise in the job market that they didn’t even contemplate looking for work. A 2014 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, CBS News and the New York Times found that 85% of jobless prime-age men did not have bachelor’s degrees, and 34% had criminal records. The great crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s is long over, and the great incarceration wave that followed it is receding, so criminal records should be less prevalent going forward. Also, for the past couple of years at least, the low-credential end of the job market has been doing quite well, and even a criminal background has ceased to be the barrier it once was.It’s true that the prime-age male Epop and labor-force participation rate are still more than a percentage point lower than they were just before the last recession. But by far the biggest driver of the decline since 2006 has been men attending school. Other major contributors, especially over the longer haul, include home responsibilities and very early retirement. I’m guessing the latter is more about men who can’t find good work but have spouses who can than evidence of the spectacular success of the “Fire” (financial independence, retire early) movement, but who knows. Overall, these choices don’t seem to reflect economic desperation in quite the way that rising disability numbers did. They may well be signs, though, of continuing shifts in men’s and women’s labor market roles.(1) Why not "EPOP," which is the more commonly used shorthand? Mainly because it's pronounced "Epop," not "E-P-O-P," and Bloomberg's stylebook calls for capitalizing all the letters in an acronym only when each letter is separately pronounced. Same goes for "Fire" later in the column. (I hope these will get me as many angry emails as writing "Nascar.")(2) These numbers aren't published on a regular basis, but Steven F. Hipple of the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on them occasionally, and provided me with the chart data.To contact the author of this story: Justin Fox at justinfox@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • iPhones Are Big in China, But Apple’s Services Play Gets Mired in Censorship

    iPhones Are Big in China, But Apple’s Services Play Gets Mired in Censorship

    (Bloomberg) -- When it comes to many of Apple Inc.'s latest services, iPhone users in China are missing out. Podcast choices are paltry. Apple TV+ is off the air. News subscriptions are blocked, and Arcade gaming is nowhere to be found.For years, Apple made huge inroads in the world's most populous nation with hardware that boasted crisp displays, sleek lines and speedy processors. It peddled little of the content that boxed U.S. internet giants Google and Facebook Inc. out of the country. But now that Apple is becoming a major digital services provider, it’s struggling to avoid the fate of its rivals. Apple services such as the App Store, digital books, news, video, podcasts and music, put the company in the more precarious position of information provider (or at least overseer), exposing it to a growing online crackdown by China’s authoritarian government. “There's a headwind around services there, and it's unclear what services can be available,” said Gene Munster, a veteran Apple analyst and co-founder of Loup Ventures. “It points to an issue with China more broadly with how U.S. companies can operate there, and it will likely remain a headwind on Apple services for a long time."While standard iPhone services like iMessage work in China, many paid offerings that help Apple generate recurring revenue from its devices aren’t available in the country. That includes four new services that Apple announced this year: TV+ video streaming, the Apple Card, Apple Arcade and the News+ subscription. Other well-known Apple services can’t be accessed in the country either, including the iTunes Store, iTunes Movie rentals, Apple Books and the Apple TV and Apple News apps. This is a concern for investors because Apple is relying on services to power future revenue and profit. If the company can’t sell these offerings in the world’s large internet market, it will be harder to keep growing. About 10% of Apple’s services revenue comes from China, while the country accounts for roughly 18% of iPhone sales, according to Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. "The missing puzzle piece for services is China,” he added. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.Older services, such as the App Store, Apple Pay, and Apple Music are available in China. So is iCloud, but, unlike in other countries, it is operated by a local provider backed by the government, giving authorities greater access to Chinese user data. Other Apple apps are in the country, too, but sometimes lack features offered in the rest of the world. When an iPhone owner in mainland China opens Apple’s Podcasts app, the experience is far more limited. Search results turn up a fraction of the podcasts available globally. And Categories, the easy way to find podcasts that fit users’ interests, are nowhere to be found. Over the past year, Apple’s Weather app lost its ability to show air quality index, or AQI, data for Chinese cities — regardless of the user's location. AQI is an important metric given high levels of pollution in many areas of the country. AQI support for China was announced at Apple’s developer conference in June 2016, and users started reporting that the feature stopped consistently showing data for China last year. Recent Bloomberg tests confirmed that the information isn’t available for Chinese cities such as Shanghai, while it continues to work for other supported regions, including the U.S., India and parts of Europe. Air pollution is a sensitive issue for China’s government. It has made sweeping efforts to improve the situation but has also blocked some air-quality information online, including one episode in 2014 that was reported by the Washington Post. AQI data for the Apple Weather app comes from the Weather Channel, a unit of International Business Machines Corp. Apple removed the information for Chinese cities after the Weather Channel changed how it collects the data in the country, according to a person familiar with the situation. The Weather Channel used to get AQI information on the ground in China, but now collects it via satellites, which is less accurate, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. A spokeswoman for the Weather Channel didn’t respond to a request for comment.Greater China became Apple’s second-largest region in the 2015 fiscal year, generating $59 billion in revenue. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visits frequently and the company employs about 10,000 people there directly. More than a million other workers assemble Apple products in the country for Foxconn and other Apple manufacturing partners. China’s first major move to limit an Apple service happened in 2008, when the company’s iTunes Music Store was axed in the region. In 2016, iTunes Movies and iBooks, the former name of Apple Books, were blocked in China. This wasn’t so much of an issue when iPhones were selling well and revenue was surging. But more recently, iPhone sales have slowed and the company switched some of its focus to services. This is a $46 billion-a-year business now, and Apple expects it to be a major source of future growth, topping $50 billion a year in 2020. So Apple has a lot more at stake as China continues to crack down on online activity.Apple’s $50 Billion Dilemma: Listen to Bloomberg’s Decrypted podcast here.The App Store, Apple’s most lucrative services business, has been particularly affected in recent years. The company has been forced to remove several apps from the App Store in China, including the New York Times and Quartz news apps. The government’s media control and censorship is likely why Apple's own News app, launched in 2015, is barred. The company’s News+ subscription service, rolled out this year, is not available on Apple devices purchased in China, and the app loses its functionality for users from other countries who travel there. Apple has also pulled hundreds of VPN apps that helped users evade China’s Great Firewall and access banned Western internet services such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. In the second half of last year, Apple removed 634 apps from its App Store due to take-down requests. More than 80% of those were in mainland China, according to Apple’s latest transparency report. Each app that disappears is a lost revenue opportunity. When iPhone and iPad users pay to download apps, Apple takes a 30% cut. And when consumers make in-app purchases or sign up for paid app subscriptions, the company takes a cut too. Last year, the Chinese government slowed down Apple’s ability to approve new video games for the App Store, and this contributed to a sales decline in the region. Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said in January that the issue was “affecting our business.” Apple’s Arcade gaming subscription service would likely be hard to pull off in China given this tortured approval process.On its fiscal fourth-quarter call last week, Cook was more upbeat, saying Apple’s services business in China grew at a “double digit” rate. But his comments showed how much the company relies on China’s government for digital services like this. “We began to see more gaming approvals in the quarter, or I should say some key gaming approvals. It's not all about quantity, but about which ones,” he added. A few weeks earlier, one of Apple’s App Store decisions sparked a rare rebuke from the People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party. Apple was excoriated by the newspaper for approving an app called HKmap.live that let users monitor Hong Kong police activity to stay safe in the midst of democracy protests in the city.“People have reason to assume that Apple is mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts. Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision,” the paper said. “Apple and other corporations should be able to discern right from wrong. They also need to know that only the prosperity of China and China’s Hong Kong will bring them a broader and more sustainable market.”Soon after, Apple removed the app, saying it violated local laws and endangered law enforcement. The paper also said the song “Glory to Hong Kong,” which has become a rallying cry for pro-democracy demonstrators, had reappeared on Apple Music. Soon after, the track was unavailable on Apple’s service, in addition to Spotify. Even Apple’s new TV+ video service has felt the influence of China’s censorship. BuzzFeed recently reported that Apple told show creators to avoid portraying China in a poor light. The TV+ offering launched Nov. 1 in more than 100 countries, but not in China. Apple’s new credit card is only available in the U.S., but would also be a hard sell in China given the dominance of local payment providers like Alipay and WeChat. Still, some analysts are optimistic about the longer-term outlook for Apple services in China. “At some point, it will be economic forces that drive access to Apple services, and that will be a major boon for Apple along with other companies that are currently restricted from access to China,” said Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners. “You can only hold back access to information for so long.”Apple’s App Store and other services have so much potential that the company can also keep growing with limited access to Chinese consumers, he added. “They have barely scratched the surface of penetration into their almost 1 billion iPhone installed user base globally, and even if you exclude China, there is still a tremendous market,” Feinseth said. For a few years, Apple highlighted Chinese features when it announced major new versions of its iOS and macOS operating systems. At its 2012 annual conference for software developers, Craig Federighi, Apple’s software engineering chief, said, “It’s going to be important, get your apps ready for China,” during a presentation slide dedicated to new China features. That year, iOS 6 added support for Baidu web search and the micro-blogging service Sina Weibo, in addition to new text-input features. 2013’s iOS 7 came out with a Chinese-English dictionary, handwriting recognition and support for Tencent’s Weibo service. A year later, iOS 8 had turn-by-turn maps for China and the lunar calendar.Apple hasn’t promoted China features as much in recent years, but it is still adding some. iOS 10 in 2016 added the air-quality-index data that have now been removed. The following year, iOS 11 came out with QR code scanning. This year, Apple upgraded that QR feature, improved the handwriting keyboard and added a new Junction View feature to its Maps service for improved local lane guidance on complicated highways. To keep growing in China, Apple will either need to get more of its services up and running in the country or find its next hardware hit beyond the iPhone.“The company still has an opportunity on hardware there, especially for future iPhone models, the AirPods, Apple Watches and other wearables,” Munster said. \--With assistance from Yuan Gao.To contact the author of this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at mgurman1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Alistair Barr at abarr18@bloomberg.net, Andrew MartinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Alphabet Board Investigates Executives Over Relationships

    Alphabet Board Investigates Executives Over Relationships

    (Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s board is investigating how the company dealt with accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against some of its executives."As has already been confirmed in public court filings, in early 2019, Alphabet’s Board of Directors formed a special litigation committee to consider claims made by shareholders in various lawsuits relating to past workplace conduct," Alphabet said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.The investigation includes the behavior of Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, a long time senior executive who has been accused of having relationships with employees, CNBC reported earlier on Wednesday. The board of directors has hired a law firm to help with the investigation and contact alleged victims, CNBC also said.A 2018 New York Times report detailed three accounts of senior Google executives, including Drummond, having relationships with employees. Alphabet is the parent of Google. Two of those executives, Andy Rubin and Rich DeVaul, have since left the company, but Drummond remains.In August, a former Google employee, Jennifer Blakely, who participated in the New York Times story, elaborated on accusations she made to the New York Times about Drummond, saying she was forced out of the company and that he refused to pay child support after their relationship ended.Drummond has acknowledged the relationship with Blakely. "Other than Jennifer, I never started a relationship with anyone else who was working at Google or Alphabet," he said in a statement in August. He did not return an email seeking comment.The New York Times also reported last year that Rubin, the founder of Android, was given a $90 million severance package when he left Google in 2014. That prompted a walkout by thousands of Google employees, and has spurred efforts to reform how the company handles sexual harassment and misconduct complaints.Some shareholders have sued the company over this episode and other workplace conduct, and the Alphabet board’s special litigation committee is considering these claims, the Alphabet spokeswoman said on Wednesday.To contact the reporter on this story: Gerrit De Vynck in New York at gdevynck@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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