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“Civilization May Not Survive” – George Soros Tells Davos Crowd, Defeat Putin (And Xi) Or Else

"Civilization May Not Survive" – George Soros Tells Davos Crowd, Defeat Putin (And Xi) Or Else

In his first appearance in person at Davos…

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"Civilization May Not Survive" - George Soros Tells Davos Crowd, Defeat Putin (And Xi) Or Else

In his first appearance in person at Davos since Slamming Trump as a "conman, narcissist" and claiming Mark Zuckerberg was conspiring to get him re-elected in March 2020 (and warned that "the overheated US economy can't be kept boiling for too long"), billionaire George Soros unveiled his traditionally anticipated annual address, taking aim squarely at China (nothing new there) but adding Russia to his hit list.

The 90-year-old puppet-master is certainly not getting any younger (looking older than 98-year-0old Henry Kissinger who made headlines earlier in the day), warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has rattled Europe and could be the start of another world war.

“Other issues that concern all of humanity -- fighting pandemics and climate change, avoiding nuclear war, maintaining global institutions -- have had to take a back seat to that struggle,” Soros said,

“That’s why I say our civilization may not survive.”

Taking aim at the leaders of both Russia and China, Soros said:

The two leaders have made “mind-boggling mistakes,” adding that,

“Putin expected to be welcomed in Ukraine as a liberator; Xi Jinping is sticking to a Zero Covid policy that can’t possibly be sustained.”

Attacking China is nothing new, as in 2019, the former hedge fund manager warned of the “mortal danger” of China’s use of artificial intelligence to repress its citizens, a theme he hit again in his speech today.

“AI is particularly good at producing instruments of control that help repressive regimes and endanger open societies,” Soros said.

“Covid-19 also helped legitimize instruments of control because they are really useful in dealing with the virus.”

But his concluding thoughts were ominous to say the least as he added Russia to his shit-list, warning that, loosely translated: defeat Putin or we're all going to die...

"Therefore, we must mobilize all our resources to bring the war to an early end. The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible. That’s the bottom line"

*  *  *

Full Address below: (emphasis ours)

Since the last Davos meeting the course of history has changed dramatically. 

Russia invaded Ukraine. This has shaken Europe to its core. The European Union was established to prevent such a thing from happening. Even when the fighting stops as it eventually must, the situation will never revert to what it was before. 

The invasion may have been the beginning of the Third World War and our civilization may not survive it. That is the subject I will address this evening.

The invasion of Ukraine didn’t come out of the blue. The world has been increasingly engaged in a struggle between two systems of governance that are diametrically opposed to each other: open society and closed society. Let me define the difference as simply as I can. 

In an open society, the role of the state is to protect the freedom of the individual; in a closed society the role of the individual is to serve the rulers of the state.

Other issues that concern all of humanity – fighting pandemics and climate change, avoiding nuclear war, maintaining global institutions – have had to take a back seat to that struggle. That’s why I say our civilization may not survive. 

I became engaged in what I call political philanthropy in the 1980s. That was a time when a large part of the world was under Communist rule, and I wanted to help people who were outraged and fought against oppression. 

As the Soviet Union disintegrated, I established one foundation after another in rapid succession in what was then the Soviet empire. The effort turned out to be more successful than I expected. 

Those were exciting days. They also coincided with a period of personal financial success that allowed me to increase my annual giving from $3 million in 1984 to more than $300 million three years later. 

After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the tide began to turn against open societies. Repressive regimes are now in the ascendant and open societies are under siege. Today China and Russia present the greatest threat to open society. 

I have pondered long and hard why that should have happened. I found part of the answer in the rapid development of digital technology, especially artificial intelligence.

In theory, AI ought to be politically neutral: it can be used for good or bad. But in practice the effect is asymmetric. AI is particularly good at producing instruments of control that help repressive regimes and endanger open societies. Covid-19 also helped legitimize instruments of control because they are really useful in dealing with the virus. 

The rapid development of AI has gone hand in hand with the rise of social media and tech platforms. These conglomerates have come to dominate the global economy. They are multinational and their reach extends around the world.

These developments have had far-reaching consequences. They have sharpened the conflict between China and the United States. China has turned its tech platforms into national champions. The United States has been more hesitant because it has worried about their effect on the freedom of the individual. 

These different attitudes shed new light on the conflict between the two different systems of governance that the US and China represent. 

Xi Jinping’s China, which collects personal data for the surveillance and control of its citizens more aggressively than any other country in history, ought to benefit from these developments. But, as I shall explain later tonight, that is not the case. 

Let me now turn to recent developments, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met on February 4th at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. They issued a long statement announcing that the cooperation between them has “no limits”. Putin informed Xi of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, but it is unclear whether he told Xi that he had a full-scale attack on Ukraine in mind. US and UK military experts certainly told their Chinese counterparts what was in store. Xi approved, but asked Putin to wait until the conclusion of the winter Olympics. 

For his part, Xi resolved to hold the Olympics in spite of the Omicron variant that was just beginning to spread in China. The organizers went to great lengths to create an airtight bubble for the competitors and the Olympics concluded without a hitch.

But Omicron established itself in the community, first in Shanghai, China’s largest city and commercial hub. Now it is spreading to the rest of the country. Yet Xi persists with his Zero Covid policy. That has inflicted great hardships on Shanghai’s population, by forcing them into makeshift quarantine centers instead of allowing them to quarantine themselves at home. This has driven Shanghai to the verge of open rebellion. 

Many people are puzzled by this seemingly irrational approach, but I can give you the explanation: Xi harbors a guilty secret. He never told the Chinese people that they had been inoculated with a vaccine that was designed for the original Wuhan variant and offers very little protection against new variants. 

Xi can’t afford to come clean because he is at a very delicate moment in his career. His second term in office expires in the fall of 2022 and he wants to be appointed to an unprecedented third term, eventually making him ruler for life.

He has carefully choreographed a process that would allow him to fulfill his life’s ambition, and everything must be subordinated to this goal. 

In the meantime, Putin’s so-called “special military operation” didn’t unfold according to plan. He expected his army to be welcomed by the Russian speaking population of Ukraine as liberators. His soldiers carried with them their dress uniforms for a victory parade. But that is not what happened. 

Ukraine put up unexpectedly strong resistance and inflicted severe damage on the invading Russian army. The army was badly equipped and badly led and the soldiers became demoralized. The United States and the European Union rallied to Ukraine’s support and supplied it with armaments. With their help, Ukraine was able to defeat the much larger Russian army in the battle for Kyiv. 

Putin could not afford to accept defeat and changed his plans accordingly. He put General Vladimir Shamanov, well known for his cruelty in the siege of Grozny, in charge and ordered him to produce some success by May 9th when Victory Day was to be celebrated. 

But Putin had very little to celebrate. Shamanov concentrated his efforts on the port city of Mariupol which used to have 400,000 inhabitants. He reduced it to rubble, as he had done to Grozny but the Ukrainian defenders held out for 82 days and the siege cost the lives of thousands of civilians.

Moreover, the hasty withdrawal from Kyiv revealed the heinous atrocities that Putin’s army had committed on the civilian population in a suburb of Kyiv, Bucha. They are well-documented, and they have outraged those who saw the pictures on television. That did not include the people of Russia who had been kept in the dark about Putin’s “special military operation”.

The invasion of Ukraine has now entered a new phase which is much more challenging for the Ukrainian army. They must fight on open terrain where the numerical superiority of the Russian army is more difficult to overcome. 

The Ukrainians are doing their best, counterattacking and penetrating Russian territory. This has had the added benefit of bringing home to the Russian population what is really going on. 

The US has also done its best to reduce the financial gap between Russia and Ukraine by getting Congress to allocate an unprecedented $40 billion in military and financial aid to Ukraine. I can’t predict the outcome, but Ukraine certainly has a fighting chance. 

Recently, European leaders went even further. They wanted to use the invasion of Ukraine to promote greater European integration, so that what Putin is doing can never happen again. 

Enrico Letta, leader of Partito Democratico, proposed a plan for a partially federated Europe. The federal portion would cover key policy areas. 

In the federal core, no member state would have veto power. In the wider confederation member states could join “coalitions of the willing” or simply retain their veto power. Mario Draghi endorsed Letta’s plan.

Emmanuel Macron, in a significant broadening of his pro-European approach, advocated geographic expansion, and the need for the EU to prepare for it. Not only Ukraine but also Moldova and the Western Balkans should qualify for membership in the European Union. It will take a long time to work out the details, but Europe seems to be moving in the right direction. It has responded to the invasion of Ukraine with greater speed, unity and vigor than ever before in its history. After a hesitant start, Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, also has found a strong pro-European voice. 

But Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels remains excessive, due largely to the mercantilist policies pursued by former Chancellor Angela Merkel. She had made special deals with Russia for the supply of gas and made China Germany’s largest export market. That made Germany the best performing economy in Europe but now there is a heavy price to pay. Germany’s economy needs to be reoriented. And that will take a long time.

Olaf Scholz was elected Chancellor because he promised to continue Merkel’s policies. But events forced him to abandon this promise. That didn’t come easy, because he had to break with the hallowed traditions of the Social Democrats. 

But when it comes to maintaining European unity, Scholz always seems to do the right thing in the end. He abandoned Nordstream 2, committed a 100 billion euros to defense and provided arms to Ukraine, breaking with a long-standing taboo. That is how the Western democracies responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

What do the two dictators Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have to show for themselves? They are tied together in an alliance that has no limits. They also have a lot in common. They rule by intimidation, and as a consequence they make mind-boggling mistakes. Putin expected to be welcomed in Ukraine as a liberator; Xi Jinping is sticking to a Zero Covid policy that can’t possibly be sustained. 

Putin seems to have recognized that he made a terrible mistake when he invaded Ukraine and he is now preparing the ground for negotiating a cease fire. But the cease fire is unattainable because he cannot be trusted. Putin would have to start peace negotiations which he will never do because it would be equivalent to resigning. 

The situation is confusing. A military expert who had been opposed to the invasion was allowed to go on Russian television to inform the public how bad the situation is. Later he swore allegiance to Putin. Interestingly, Xi Jinping continues to support Putin, but no longer without limits. 

This begins to explain why Xi Jinping is bound to fail. Giving Putin permission to launch an unsuccessful attack against Ukraine didn’t serve China’s best interests. China ought to be the senior partner in the alliance with Russia but Xi Jinping’s lack of assertiveness allowed Putin to usurp that position. But Xi’s worst mistake was to double down on his Zero Covid policy. 

The lockdowns had disastrous consequences. They pushed the Chinese economy into a free fall. It started in March, and it will continue to gather momentum until Xi reverses course – which he will never do because he can’t admit a mistake. Coming on top of the real estate crisis the damage will be so great that it will affect the global economy. With the disruption of supply chains, global inflation is liable to turn into global depression.

Yet, the weaker Putin gets the more unpredictable he becomes. The member states of the EU feel the pressure. They realize that Putin may not wait until they develop alternative sources of energy but turn off the taps on gas while it really hurts. 

The RePowerEu program announced last week reflects these fears. Olaf Scholz is particularly anxious because of the special deals that his predecessor Angela Merkel made with Russia. Mario Draghi is more courageous, although Italy’s gas dependency is almost as high as Germany’s. Europe’s cohesion will face a severe test but if it continues to maintain its unity, it could strengthen both Europe’s energy security and leadership on climate.

What about China? Xi Jinping has many enemies. Nobody dares to attack him directly because he has centralized all the instruments of surveillance and repression in his own hands, but it is well known that there is dissention within the Communist Party. It has become so sharp that it has found expression in articles that ordinary people can read.

Contrary to general expectations Xi Jinping may not get his coveted third term because of the mistakes he has made. But even if he does, the Politburo may not give him a free hand to select the members of the next Politburo. That would greatly reduce his power and influence and make it less likely that he will become ruler for life.

While the war rages, the fight against climate change has to take second place. Yet the experts tell us that we have already fallen far behind, and climate change is on the verge of becoming irreversible. That could be the end of our civilization. 

I find this prospect particularly frightening. Most of us accept the idea that we must eventually die but we take it for granted that our civilization will survive. 

Therefore, we must mobilize all our resources to bring the war to an early end. The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible. That’s the bottom line.

Thank you.

Tyler Durden Tue, 05/24/2022 - 13:59

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Economics

Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

A…

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Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

A majority of C-suite executives are considering leaving their jobs, according to a Deloitte survey of 2,100 employees and C-level executives from the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Almost 70 percent of executives admitted that they are seriously thinking of quitting their jobs for a better opportunity that supports their well-being, according to the survey report published on June 22. Over three-quarters of executives said that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively affected their well-being.

Roughly one in three employees and C-suite executives admitted to constantly struggling with poor mental health and fatigue. While 41 percent of executives “always” or “often” felt stressed, 40 percent were overwhelmed, 36 percent were exhausted, 30 percent felt lonely, and 26 percent were depressed.

“Most employees (83 percent) and executives (74 percent) say they’re facing obstacles when it comes to achieving their well-being goals—and these are largely tied to their job,” the report says. “In fact, the top two hurdles that people cited were a heavy workload or stressful job (30 percent), and not having enough time because of long work hours (27 percent).”

While 70 percent of C-suite execs admitted to considering quitting, this number was at only 57 percent among other employees. The report speculated that a reason for such a wide gap might be the fact that top-level executives are often in a “stronger financial position,” due to which they can afford to seek new career opportunities.

Interestingly, while only 56 percent of employees think their company executives care about their well-being, a much higher 91 percent of C-suite administrators were of the opinion that their employees believe their leaders took care of them. The report called this a “notable gap.”

Resignation Rates

The Deloitte report comes amid a debate about resignation rates in the U.S. workforce. Over 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April, with job openings hitting 11.9 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In the period from January 2021 to February 2022, almost 57 million Americans left their jobs.

Though some are terming it the “Great Resignation,” giving it a negative connotation, the implication is not entirely true since most of those who quit jobs did so for other opportunities. In the same 14 months, almost 89 million people were hired. There are almost two jobs open for every unemployed person in the United States, according to MarketWatch.

In an Economic Letter from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published in April, economics professor Bart Hobijn points out that high waves of resignations were common during rapid economic recoveries in the postwar period prior to 2000.

“The quits waves in manufacturing in 1948, 1951, 1953, 1966, 1969, and 1973 are of the same order of magnitude as the current wave,” he wrote. “All of these waves coincide with periods when payroll employment grew very fast, both in the manufacturing sector and the total nonfarm sector.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/25/2022 - 20:30

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Government

Doctors’ Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Doctors’ Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch…

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Doctors' Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A group of doctors is urging top government officials to quickly reverse recommendations that have left children in isolation for days and advice that virtually every child get a COVID-19 vaccine.

We strongly urge you to revise the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines with regards to testing, isolation, and vaccine recommendations for children to ensure that public health policies are not doing more harm than good,” the group, Urgency of Normal, wrote in a June 21 open letter to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks in Washington on June 16, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The CDC’s guidelines say that people, including children, who are exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine for at least five days, and encourage widespread COVID-19 testing.

The agency also recommends that all children 6 months of age or older get a COVID-19 vaccine, following the recent authorization of the Moderna and Pfizer shots for kids under 5.

The doctors noted that many European countries, U.S. states, and other areas have updated COVID-19 policies to greatly reduce periods of quarantine, COVID-19 testing frequency, and forced vaccination.

They’re asking U.S. officials to adapt to a “test-to-treat” approach, which would focus on recommending vaccination and treatments to those at the highest risk from COVID-19, which are primarily the elderly and others with serious underlying health conditions.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/25/2022 - 17:30

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Spread & Containment

This Week in Apps: Twitter Notes, Instagram age verification, Spotify’s Live Events

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy….

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS, Google Play and third-party Android app stores in China grew 19% in 2021 to reach $170 billion. Downloads of apps also grew by 5%, reaching 230 billion in 2021, and mobile ad spend grew 23% year over year to reach $295 billion.

Today’s consumers now spend more time in apps than ever before — even topping the time they spend watching TV, in some cases. The average American watches 3.1 hours of TV per day, for example, but in 2021, they spent 4.1 hours on their mobile device. And they’re not even the world’s heaviest mobile users. In markets like Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea, users surpassed five hours per day in mobile apps in 2021.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours, either. They can grow to become huge businesses. In 2021, 233 apps and games generated over $100 million in consumer spend and 13 topped $1 billion in revenue. This was up 20% from 2020, when 193 apps and games topped $100 million in annual consumer spend and just eight apps topped $1 billion.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions and suggestions about new apps to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Instagram to verify users’ ages in new test

Image Credits: Instagram

Instagram announced this week it’s testing a new set of features for verifying users’ ages in the app, including things like video selfies, vouching from adult friends and providing an ID. The tests, which will begin in the U.S., will apply to users who try to change their age to 18 or over after being previously set to under 18. These users may be trying to correct an earlier mistake or they could be teens trying to circumvent the app’s newer age-appropriate restrictions.

If users are prompted to provide an ID card, like a passport or driver’s license, Meta will store it on its servers for 30 days before deletion. If users choose the social vouching option, they’ll need at least three other adult friends to vouch for their age — and Instagram will choose a list of six people randomly who meet the criteria. Those users can’t have a new account or be vouching for others at the same time.

The company also said it’s using AI that can estimate users’ ages in video selfies. The company is working with the London-based digital identify firm Yoti which will examine the file, make an estimate, then delete the file.

Age verification is an increasingly common feature in social apps used by younger users as a result of tighter regulations. Another company catering to Gen Z users, Yubo, recently rolled out its own age estimating tech as well.

Twitter goes long form

TechCrunch broke the news that Twitter was testing a long-form writing feature called Twitter Notes. The next day after our report went live, Twitter announced it officially.

The news is one of Twitter’s more significant changes since doubling the character count from 140 to 280 characters, as it will allow users to write on Twitter directly, as if it’s a blogging platform. With Twitter Notes, users are able to create articles using rich formatting and uploaded media, which can then be tweeted and shared with followers upon publishing. The company also said it would merge its newsletter service, Revue, into Twitter Notes.

Users with access can create Twitter Notes from the “Write” link in Twitter’s navigation. For the time being, Twitter is testing Notes with a small group of writers in the United States, Canada, Ghana and the United Kingdom. The Notes can be up to 2,500 words in length.

The feature could encourage users to rely on Twitter Thread (tweetstorms) less in order to share their longer thoughts, ideas or stories with their Twitter followers, Community or Circle. It could also put an end to using a screenshot from the Notes app to tweet something longer than 280 characters. Meanwhile, Twitter Notes can tap into the potential for viral distribution that comes with posting to the platform. Like tweets, the Notes would have their own link and could be tweeted, retweeted, sent in DMs, liked and bookmarked. They can also be reported and must comply with Twitter’s rules.

It’s worth noting (ha!) that Twitter Notes also gives the company a new business and potential revenue stream as it further develops the product. The feature may allow the social platform to compete with established services, like Medium for blogging, or Substack’s newsletters.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

E-commerce

Image Credits: Twitter/Shopify

  • As part of its ongoing efforts to expand into e-commerce, Twitter announced a new partnership with Shopify. The deal will see Twitter launching a sales channel app that will be made available to all of Shopify’s U.S. merchants through its app store. The app allows merchants to onboard themselves to Twitter’s Shopping Manager, the dashboard offered by the social media company where sellers can access product catalog tools and enable other shopping features for their profiles. Merchants will be able to use the new sales channel app to connect their Twitter account to their Shopify admin then get set up with Twitter’s Shopping Manager and other free tools Twitter built for “Professionals.” This includes Twitter’s launch of a new feature called Location Spotlight, which allows local businesses in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia to display information like their street address, contact info and operating hours directly on their profile.

Augmented Reality

  • Walmart gave its app an AR upgrade with the launch of View in Your Space, which allows customers to see home décor and furniture in their own homes. The feature will be rolled out to over 300 items on Walmart’s iOS app by early July.
  • Tim Cook may have hinted at Apple’s AR headset plans when he told a Chinese state-run news outlet to “stay tuned” to see what Apple had in store next for AR in an interview. A later investor note by Ming-Chi Kuo also suggested the new hardware could arrive as soon as early 2023.
  • IKEA launched a new in-app design experience, called IKEA Kreativ, that lets U.S. shoppers visualize furniture in their own spaces using AR and AI. The feature can also remove the existing furniture from your room so you can better imagine the changes.
  • Snap shared some data about AR shopping trends, noting that there was a 32% increased use of shoppable AR during the pandemic and that 69% of consumers believed AR was a part of shopping’s future.

Fintech

  • Coinbase is shutting down its standalone Pro service by year’s end and replacing it with Advanced Trade across its website and app. The latter offers comparable features to the Pro service, which had lowered fees to traders who interacted directly with the Coinbase Exchange order book.
  • Facebook Pay formally rebranded to Meta Pay. The change had already been announced but is now rolling out in the U.S. before expanding globally.

Social

Image Credits: Twitter

  • Snapchat announced its first accelerator program for emerging Black creators, which will see 25 selected participants receive $10,000 per month to launch their careers across a total $3 million investment.
  • Instagram has been experimenting with a new feature that would allow users to leave notes for their friends at the top of the DM inbox. The feature could help users share urgent or more important messages that could be overlooked in Stories or in messages.
  • Meta announced more ways for creators to make money on Facebook and Instagram and the expansion of other monetization tools to more creators. The company will keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges and its upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2024, instead of 2023, as it had said before. Meta is also testing a designated place on Instagram where creators can get discovered by brands for partnerships; will launch a way for users to subscribe to Facebook Groups even for those who have paid for access on another platform; and is expanding the Reels Play Bonus program to more creators and making Facebook Stars available to all.
  • Twitter announced the return of its developer conference, Chirp. The event was first held in 2010 but was then canceled the next year. At the time, the event had been a reflection of Twitter’s attitude toward its developer community in general — disorganized and constantly in flux as the company’s business initiatives changed. Times have since changed and Twitter has been trying to woo back developers with its new API, even by promoting some apps on Twitter itself.

Messaging

  • Telegram said it now has over 700 monthly active users and announced Telegram Premium, a subscription that gives users access to exclusive features like doubled limits, 4 GB file uploads, faster downloads, exclusive stickers and reactions, improved chat management and more.

Photos

Dating

  • Match-owned Hinge added a new feature that allows users to share their “Dating Intentions” — meaning whether they’re looking for long-term, short-term, open relationships and more. The update changes Hinge’s focus as the company has historically been the app designed to connect people looking for more serious relationships, while Match-owned Tinder was aimed at those seeking casual encounters.

Streaming & Entertainment

Image Credits: Spotify

  • Spotify revamped its concert discovery feature with the launch of a new Live Events Feed. The personalized feature will allow users to find favorite artists’ events in your area and will now include artist imagery and more tour details. Local events will also be highlighted while streaming and soon, in other places in the Spotify app.
  • Clubhouse is testing a new feature called Houses, per Bloomberg, which are private rooms aimed at encouraging social interactions where anyone can unmute themselves and speak.
  • Reddit Talk, the company’s live audio Clubhouse-like feature, announced its Host program would launch on July 11th. The program will promote hosts’ audio across the site. Reddit Talk also gained new features like a soundboard and topic selector for discovery purposes.
  • Apple Music raised the price of its student plan in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In the United States and Canada, the price for the plan has increased from $4.99 to $5.99. In the United Kingdom, the price has increased from £4.99 to £5.99.

Gaming

  • Epic Games has come up with a new system for game ratings. While these changes apply to its own online games store, it’s an example of why alternative app stores could be useful to provide competition with Apple’s own — they can be a ground to test out new ideas. In Epic’s case, random players who have played a game for over two hours will be asked to rate the game on a five-point scale. Over time, these will create the game’s Overall Rating. The system, which relies on random sampling, could cut down on review bombing and reviews left by those who aren’t actual players, the company notes.
  • China’s regulation of the mobile gaming market may be leading to declining use of the App Store in the country, according to Morgan Stanley. The firm’s latest analysis estimated that the App Store only saw 1% growth in June so far, compared with 6% growth in May.

Health & Fitness

  • Fitbit added a new premium feature, “Sleep Profile,” which will allow users to track their sleep patterns across 10 key metrics, including new data points like bedtime consistency, the time before sound sleep and disrupted sleep. The feature is rolling out to the Fitbit app’s Premium users and supports devices including Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Charge 5, Luxe or Inspire 2.

Travel & Transportation

  • Apple is planning to expand its CarPlay experience to China, according to a job posting.
  • Polestar has now added Apple CarPlay to its all-electric Polestar 2 sedan via an over-the-air software update, after previously only supporting Android Auto.
  • Car rental apps saw their MAUs grow 19% year-over-year in the U.S. in May, reported Apptopia, despite rising gas prices.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Government & Policy

  • TikTok offered a series of commitments in the EU to improve user reporting and disclosure requirements around ads/sponsored content as well as an agreement to boost transparency around its digital coins and virtual gifts. The agreement follows a series of complaints over child safety and consumer protection complaints filed back in February 2021.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice today entered into an agreement with Meta to resolve a lawsuit that alleged Meta engaged in discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As a result, Meta has agreed to develop a new system for housing ads and will pay a roughly $115,000 penalty, the maximum under the FHA.

Reading & News

  • India-based VerSe Innovation rolled out its news aggregator Dailyhunt in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, with over 5,000 content partners in the region.

Security & Privacy

  • Google Chrome for iOS gained a number of new features in a recent update, including access to Enhanced Safe Browsing to protect users from dangerous websites and malware, as well as the ability to make Google Password Manager your Autofill provider. Other additions include Chrome Actions (typed commands in the URL bar) and access to Google’s Discover feed on the main page.
  • Daycare apps including those from Brightwheel, HiMama and others were found to lack 2FA and other privacy protections, in an analysis.
  • Google threat researchers detailed a commercial spyware system called Hermit, used in Kazakhstan and Italy, which targeted both Android and iOS. The iOS version had six exploits, including two zero-days. Targeted victims are tricked into installing a malicious app — which masquerades as a legitimate branded telco or messaging app — from outside the app store.

Funding and M&A

Courier raised $35 million in a Series B funding round led by GV. The company provides an API for sending notifications across multiple channels, including email, text, web and mobile.

Ghana-based fintech Fido raised $30 million in equity investment and some undisclosed debt funding in a Series A round led by Israel-based private equity fund Fortissimo Capital. The round brings the total equity investment raised to date to $38 million. The startup says it’s adding savings and payment products to its portfolio later this year and will enter Uganda.

Twitter asked its shareholders to approve the $44 billion Elon Musk acquisition. At the time of its SEC filing, Twitter’s share price was around $38.12 — lower than Musk’s offer price of $54.20 a share. The company’s market cap had also dropped below $30 billion, making a $44 billion deal look very good.

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WatchTube

Image Credits: WatchTube

Well, here’s something kind of crazy: 9to5Mac this week highlighted the new app WatchTube, which lets you watch YouTube videos directly on your Apple Watch. Yes, really!

The app is not the best experience for watching videos, as you may have guessed, but it is pretty wild that it actually works. The app by default shows you top trending videos, but you can customize this so the videos that appear are selected from a particular genre, like Music, News, Gaming, Movies and more. While it would be enough to just accomplish bringing YouTube to the Watch, the developer also added other features like the ability to search for videos, save videos to the app’s local Library and subscribe to Channels. When you get back to your other devices, you can also scan a QR code to share the video back to your iPhone or iPad.

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