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'There is an urgency': Feds seek pest control pros to help employees with bedbugs

File photo of a bedbug. Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen

The federal government is rushing to hire pest control professionals who can deal with bedbugs that public servants bring home from the office, as the insects continue to pop up in government buildings around the national capital region.

According to a tender posted last Friday by Public Works and Government Services Canada, the feds are looking to issue up to five standing offers to pest management firms that can inspect and treat its workers’ homes and vehicles for bedbugs as needed, over the next five years.

The budget for each standing offer? Up to $400,000.

The procurement will close Nov. 22, and the tender offers an explanation for the short turnaround time.

“There is an urgency … considering the health and safety risks associated with the bedbug situation in the national capital area.”

It called the situation “unforeseeable, as this is something that is not expected in an office setting.”

It also notes that the problem has grown.

“Because of the increasing number of government buildings affected by bedbugs, a longer solicitation period is impracticable as the Government of Canada is required to proactively act in an expeditious manner to control (the) spread of bedbugs.”

According to Health Canada, bedbugs come out at night to feed on people and pets. Their bites can result in skin reactions and their presence has been known to cause anxiety and insomnia in those living with a bedbug infestation.

In recent weeks, this newspaper has reported the discovery of bedbugs in six federal government office buildings in Ottawa-Gatineau: 200 Kent St., 22 Eddy St., 235 Queen St., 70 Crémazie St., 350 King Edward Ave and the Jeanne Mance Building at Tunney’s Pasture. CBC reported bedbug sightings in several additional federal buildings: the Jean Talon building at Tunney’s Pasture, 30 Rue Victoria, and 300 Slater St.

In a statement dated Oct. 30, Public Services and Procurement Canada instructed federal employees who suspect bedbugs in their workplace to notify their manager and call 1-800-463-1850.

A report triggers an expert inspection, treatment if bedbugs are identified, and post-treatment monitoring, according to the statement.

“PSPC is taking this issue very seriously and has been working closely with facility managers in affected departments to address detections as quickly as possible,” the statement reads. “Government actions to manage bedbugs are being guided by expert advice.”

Murray Isman, a pest management expert from the University of British Columbia is working with the government on its bedbug problem. PSPC said it’s also randomly testing high-traffic buildings, educating employees and cleaning staff on what to watch out for, and consulting with federal public sector unions on the bedbug issue.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the largest union representing federal public servants, has called on the government to cover all home treatment expenses for employees working in buildings where bedbugs have been discovered.

PSAC also asked the government to inspect all its buildings across the country using sniffer dogs to check for bedbugs, and to fumigate the entire building if the insects are discovered.

Trump Says U.S., China Close on 'Phase One' of Trade Deal

President Trump speaking on Tuesday at the Economic Club of New York. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
By
Josh Zumbrun and
Harriet Torry

President Donald Trump said the U.S. and China are close to completing “phase one” of their trade deal, but indicated both sides were still hammering out terms.

“They are dying to make a deal,” Mr. Trump said of Chinese officials in a speech to the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday. “We are the ones deciding whether or not we want to make a deal. We’re close.”

The U.S. and China were also close to a deal this spring before hitting an impasse, Mr. Trump reminded his audience. Despite his optimistic outlook, Mr. Trump said another breakdown would lead the U.S. to ramp up tariffs already imposed on Chinese imports.

Related Video

Beijing is giving Washington a concession in the trade talks: regulations that would level the playing field for foreign companies in China. But there are doubts about Beijing’s true commitment to opening its market. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

“If we don’t make a deal we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs, they’re going to be raised very substantially,” he said.

The Chinese embassy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. has imposed 25% tariffs on $250 billion of imports from China, as well as 15% tariffs on a separate tranche of $111 billion of goods. Washington has also threatened to impose tariffs for a final tranche of about $156 billion of goods starting Dec. 15.

China wants the U.S. to remove all tariffs, a demand that is being negotiated at the bargaining table, the Journal has previously reported. People following the talks say it is likely the U.S. will agree to reduce or eliminate some tariffs in return for Beijing’s promise to buy more U.S. farm goods, enact reforms to protect intellectual property and prevent currency manipulation.

Possible scenarios include dropping plans to impose the Dec. 15 tariffs altogether and rolling back 15% tariffs on about $111 billion in Chinese imports imposed Sept. 1.

Mr. Trump is also weighing whether to impose tariffs on European and Asian auto imports by Wednesday.

Mr. Trump didn’t comment on his plans for the car tariffs but he said his approach--particularly the threats of tariffs--had been successful at bringing Mexico, Canada, Japan and South Korea to the negotiating table.

By contrast, he said that the European Union had been “very very difficult. The barriers they have up are terrible. In many ways worse than China.”

Mr. Trump made the remarks on trade in a broader address to the Economic Club, in which he touted the growing economy and strong labor market as he confronts possible impeachment by the House and a re-election fight next year.

“Our country is strong, our country is great, our economy is probably the best it’s ever been and we want to keep it that way,” Mr. Trump said.

The unemployment rate ticked up from a 50-year low to 3.6% in October as hundreds of thousands of Americans joined the labor force, and wage growth remained steady, up 3% from a year earlier. Still, economic growth has cooled this year. Gross domestic product grew at a 1.9% annual rate in the third quarter, slowing from 2% in the second quarter and a 3.1% pace in the first.

Mr. Trump repeated his criticism of the Federal Reserve Tuesday, saying that higher short-term interest rates in the U.S. compared with other major economies “puts us at a competitive disadvantage to other countries.”

The Fed began raising rates from near zero in late 2015, peaking at a range between 2.25% to 2.5% in December last year, “which were in my opinion, far too fast an increase, and far too slow a decrease,” he said. The central bank has since cut rates three times, to a 1.5% to 1.75% range.

—Alex Leary contributed to this article.

Write to Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com and Harriet Torry at harriet.torry@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Google: You can trust us with the medical data you didn’t know we already had

Photo illustration showing the Google logo reflected on the eye of a young man.
Enlarge / Photo illustration showing the Google logo reflected on the eye of a young man.

Google now has access to detailed medical records on tens of millions of Americans, but the company promises it won't mix that medical data with any of the other data Google collects on consumers who use its services.

Google provided this statement yesterday shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported that Google is partnering with Ascension, the country's second-largest health care system, "on a project to collect and crunch the detailed personal-health information of millions of people across 21 states."

"To be clear: under this arrangement, Ascension's data cannot be used for any other purpose than for providing these services we're offering under the agreement, and patient data cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data," Google said in a blog post. That would mean Google won't use the medical data to target advertisements at users of Google services.

Google also said that its work with Ascension "adheres to industry-wide regulations (including HIPAA) regarding patient data, and come[s] with strict guidance on data privacy, security, and usage."

"We have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Ascension, which governs access to Protected Health Information (PHI) for the purpose of helping providers support patient care," Google said. "This is standard practice in health care, as patient data is frequently managed in electronic systems that nurses and doctors widely use to deliver patient care."

What can Google see? Pretty much everything

Patient data shared with Google includes names, birth dates, addresses, family members, allergies, immunizations, radiology scans, hospitalization records, lab tests, medications, medical conditions, "and some billing claims and other clinical records," according to a followup article in the Journal. The partnership "covers the personal health records of around 50 million patients of Ascension," the Journal wrote.

The Journal said that "Neither doctors nor patients have been formally notified of the arrangement" and that Google and Ascension began the project "in secret last year."

Google seems to be correct that the partnership doesn't violate HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). As the Journal noted, that law "generally allows hospitals to share data with business partners without telling patients, as long as the information is used 'only to help the covered entity carry out its health care functions.'" An expert quoted by the Journal noted that Google would be at risk of violating the law "if it uses the health data to perform independent research outside the direct scope of patient care."

Ascension is not paying Google for these services, the Journal wrote, but Google's work with Ascension could lead to profitable ventures. Google is using Ascension's patient data "in part to design new software, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, that zeroes in on individual patients to suggest changes to their care," the Journal wrote. Google could sell this software to other health care institutions. As part of the project, "Staffers across Alphabet Inc., Google's parent, have access to the patient information, internal documents show," the Journal wrote.

The news about Google's work with Ascension comes as Google is trying to buy Fitbit for $2.1 billion, in a deal that is pending regulatory approval. Fitbit devices are used for health tracking, among other things, and Google wants to use Fitbit to bolster its existing Wear OS platform.

But Google's privacy promise should mean that it won't combine any patient data from Ascension with the data it gathers from Fitbit, Wear OS, Google search, Gmail, Google Docs, Chrome, or any of the other consumer services it provides.

Google’s services for Ascension

Google said it is providing its standard G Suite productivity tools to Ascension and that it's doing custom work for the company. This includes moving Ascension's "on-premise data warehouse and analytics environments to their own private and secure Google Cloud environment." The arrangement also includes "provid[ing] tools that Ascension could use to support improvements in clinical quality and patient safety," Google said.

Google said its work with Ascension is similar to what it was already doing with "dozens of other health care providers."

"These organizations, like Ascension, use Google to securely manage their patient data, under strict privacy and security standards. They are the stewards of the data, and we provide services on their behalf," Google said.

Ascension also released a statement on its work with Google yesterday. Ascension said it aims to improve the tools used by both patients and caregivers as well as "explor[e] artificial intelligence/machine learning applications that will have the potential to support improvements in clinical quality and effectiveness."

U.K. political parties targeted by large-scale pre-election cyberattacks

By: Reuters

Both the U.K. Conservative and Labour parties were targets of large-scale cyberattacks on their digital platforms Tuesday just weeks before a national election.

The attack on the Labour website began at around 1:30 p.m. local time and peaked about an hour later, the source said, just hours after the Labour Party announced it had repelled a similar attack on Monday evening, a Labour Party source said. 

The source said both attacks were "very unsophisticated" distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which try to take down target websites by flooding them with malicious traffic. 

Opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Tuesday that if this was a sign of things to come in the election, then he felt "very nervous about it all."

"A cyberattack against a political party in an election is suspicious and something one is very worried about," he said when asked by a reporter about the attack during a campaign event.

Corbyn said the party was looking into who might have been behind the attack.

A party spokesperson said ongoing security processes are in place to protect its online platforms following the hackers attempts to force its web services offline.

"We have ongoing security processes in place to protect our platforms, so users may be experiencing some differences. We are dealing with this quickly and efficiently," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The governing Conservative Party was hit by an attack on Tuesday which also tried to force its website offline.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Tuesday that cyberattacks against a political party in an election is 'suspicious and something one is very worried about.' (Phil Noble/Reuters)

The attack began shortly before 2 p.m. and lasted for less than an hour without managing to take down any party websites, a sources said.

A Conservative Party spokeswoman had no immediate comment and said she was unaware of the attack.

One of the sources said the attackers appeared to be different from those responsible for two back-to-back attacks on the main opposition Labour Party on Monday and earlier on Tuesday.

Russian influence report

Meanwhile, Former U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton says she's "dumbfounded" that the U.K. government has failed to release a report on Russian influence in its politics before the country holds a national election next month.

The 2016 U.S. presidential candidate told media that the public needs to know what is in the report by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee before voters go to the polls on Dec. 12.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has said it needs more time to review the security implications of the report before it is released. Critics, however, allege the report is being withheld until after the election, because it is embarrassing to Johnson's Conservative Party, which is trying to win a majority and push through Johnson's Brexit plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union.

"I'm dumbfounded that this government won't release the report … because every person who votes in this country deserves to see that report before your election happens," Clinton told the BBC on Tuesday.

"There is no doubt... that Russia in particular is determined to try to shape the politics of Western democracies, not to our benefit but to theirs."

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 U.S. presidential election found that Russia interfered in the vote in a "sweeping and systemic" fashion. U.S. President Donald Trump, who won that vote, has dismissed the Mueller report's conclusions, but the investigation has put Russia into the crosshairs of a debate on the integrity of elections worldwide.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that she's "dumbfounded" that the U.K. government failed to release a report on Russian influence in its politics. (Simon Dawson/Reuters)

The Intelligence and Security Committee began its investigation following allegations of Russian interference both in the 2016 U.S. election and the referendum on the country's EU membership earlier that year.

The investigation began in November 2017, but the importance of the probe was highlighted in March 2018, when a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with a chemical nerve agent in the cathedral city of Salisbury in southern England. The U.K. says Russian agents were behind the near-deadly poisonings, a charge that Russia denies.

The intelligence committee sent its report to Johnson for review on Oct. 17, saying it expected "to publish the report imminently." Committee chairman Dominic Grieve has criticized Johnson's government for failing to release the document amid media reports it has already been cleared by security services.

Among those who gave evidence to the committee was Bill Browder, founder of Hermitage Capital Management. Browder worked in Russia until 2005 and has campaigned for sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin's government since 2009, when his lawyer died in a Russian prison.

He said that by failing to release the Russian influence report, Johnson has made it worse for himself by implying there is something to hide.

"Nobody likes a coverup," Browder said.

Conservatives urged to release inquiry

Lawmakers from a range of parties, including Johnson's Conservatives, urged the government earlier this month to publish the report during a debate in the House of Commons.

Foreign Office minister Christopher Pincher argued it was "not unusual" for such reviews to "take some time," but others suggested the reasons are baldly political. The Sunday Times reported that nine Russian businesspeople who have donated money to the Conservatives are named in the report.

The Russian report comes amid increasing concerns about the security of an election fought in an increasingly digital world. The U.K.'s election laws are written more for a time when leaflets were pushed through mailboxes, not as Facebook and other social media giants publish political ads.

Following an 18-month investigation into online privacy and the use of social media to spread disinformation, an parliamentary committee in February urged the U.K. government to urgently approve new laws addressing internet campaign techniques, insisting that democracy itself was under threat.

While the government agreed with many of the recommendations made by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, it has done little other than circulate its own report for public comment. Former committee chairman Damian Collins said the government had planned to modernize its electoral laws at the latest by 2022, the original date for the next general election.

But Johnson called an early election in response to the political turmoil caused by the U.K.'s pending departure from the EU, which is scheduled for Jan. 31. So now the U.K.'s 46 million eligible voters will be choosing 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons in the Dec. 12 vote.

Debates commissioner suggests separate debate for main contenders in future elections

Debates commissioner David Johnston is suggesting one way to improve leaders' debates in future elections might be to make room for an English and a French debate that include only the main contenders for prime minister.

The former governor general was speaking at an event in Ottawa promoting his new book, entitled "Trust," and offered some thoughts about the debates during a question-and-answer session.

He acknowledged the widespread disapproval of the format of the English debate in the recent election campaign, which included six party leaders and five moderators.

"I think it's important that one has criticism," he said.

"I think the fact that we had six leaders participating made for a pretty busy stage, but the mandate that the debates commission, which I chair, was given was to permit into the debate a leader of (any) party who had a legitimate chance of electing candidates. That meant candidates in two ridings or more, and that's a fairly low bar."

One could argue the bar was too low, he said, but on the other hand, holding debates with all leaders allowed "voices from across the spectrum," he added.

That's why he's now floating the idea of a separate set of election debates with only major-party leaders as a potential future fix.

"There's an argument that you should have a debate with only two or three leaders and perhaps the ideal would be to have one debate in each of the two languages with two or three leaders and another debate in each of the two languages with six or seven."

One moderator rather than five would also make more sense, Johnston said.

Debate post-mortems

The debates commission is preparing a report on its work, which it must present to Parliament by March 31.

Whether these ideas will be included in the final recommendations is not clear, but Johnston said the commission has been hearing from a number of research groups and institutions that have performed their own post-mortems on the debates.

The federal government formed the commission to organize officially sanctioned leaders' debates after the 2015 campaign saw leaders, including then-prime minister Stephen Harper and Opposition leader Tom Mulcair, decide not to appear in traditional contests organized by a consortium of broadcasters. Instead, other media outlets, foundations and technology companies organized their own debates with varying levels of participation.

Johnston, before serving as governor general, was a law professor and university president and moderated several leaders' debates himself.

Audience numbers up

One thing the commission has been looking closely at is the number of Canadians who watched the debates and in what ways.

There was a "dramatic jump" in the penetration levels of the leaders' debates in this election compared to the ones held in 2015, and also a sharp increase in the number of people who watched through social media and not on traditional television, Johnston said.

"I think we have to understand that the digital revolution has taken hold of young people in ways that create waves of change that we haven't seen before."

All six party leaders participated in the two the official commission debates held during the fifth week of the campaign. They also all appeared in a second French-only debate hosted by the French television station TVA. Two other non-commission debates ran into trouble when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted not to participate in them. One of them, hosted by Maclean's, went ahead without Trudeau while the Munk debate on foreign policy was cancelled.

The notion of compelling party leaders to participate in debates was studied prior to the creation of the debates commission, and the conclusion was reached that it was "not Canadian to require people to be at the podium," Johnston said.

This is one reason why he says he is "shying away" from this as one of his final recommendations.

"What we will recommend, I think, if we don't go that route, is to try to create such a climate of expectation, dare I say trust, so that it would be very awkward for a leader of one of the principal parties to say, 'I'm not going to participate in at least two debates.' "

When asked about the election debates last week on Parliament Hill, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould mainly dodged reporters' questions, saying only that she's looking forward to seeing the commission's final report.

"We saw that a lot of Canadians watched those debates. They tuned in, they were interested and we're going to learn from those experiences."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2019.

Dealmaster: Get a year of Disney+ for free if you’re a Verizon Wireless user

Dealmaster: Get a year of Disney+ for free if you’re a Verizon Wireless user
Ars Technica

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back once again with a new round of deals and price drops. Today's list is headlined by a quick PSA for those who subscribe to a Verizon unlimited data plan or plan to subscribe to a Fios home Internet plan: if you're at all interested the new Disney+ streaming service, you can get a 12-month subscription at no extra cost. As a refresher, Disney's Netflix competitor launched on Tuesday and normally costs $7 a month or $70 a year.

Now, as is often the case with mobile carrier promos, there's some fine print to sort through. To get the free year of service, you need to subscribe to one of the carrier's Verizon Unlimited, Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited, Above Unlimited, Get More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, Pay More Unlimited, or Start Unlimited plans. (If you're marveling at the fact that Verizon has had this many unlimited plans, many of which aren't actually unlimited, you're not alone.) Both new and existing subscribers are eligible; Verizon has options on its promo page for existing subscribers who wish to switch to an unlimited plan and those who wish to move over from another carrier.

The offer is also available to Verizon Fios home Internet users and the handful of people who can access its 5G Home plan, but only if you're a new subscriber, not if you have currently pay for one of those services. For Fios users, you'll need a standalone Internet plan of at least 50/50 Mbps service, a two-year "Triple Play" bundle, or a 2-year Internet + TV "Double Play" bundle. Either way, all of this has you signing up for Disney+ through Verizon, not Disney.

Some items worth noting: it's possible to redeem the offer through the Web or the carrier's mobile app, and Verizon says the offer is not available to prepaid or business plan customers of any sort. The email address you use to register for the promo with Verizon can't already be in use by an active Disney+ account, either. If you're eligible for the free 12 months but already bought a Disney+ subscription ahead of time, though, the carrier says its promo will not replace your existing purchase; instead, that purchase will simply be paused and you can use it once the 12 months from this promotional offer have been used. (That said, we'd still advise you to keep an eye on your account and registered email address to make sure everything is managed correctly.)

If you're both a Verizon Wireless and a new Fios user, you can technically redeem the promo twice with separate email addresses and get two years of Disney+, since Verizon treats the two services as different accounts. If you didn't purchase an annual or multi-year Disney+ subscription before you redeem the offer, Verizon will automatically renew your Disney+ service at $7 a month once the promo period expires. And the carrier says the whole promo will be available until June 1, 2020.

Got all that? If you're not interested in Verizon, or you'd rather just wait until Disney+ sorts through the myriad technical problems it's having at launch, we also have deals on Kindle Unlimited subscriptions, robot vacuums, USB-C chargers, gaming laptops, and more. Have a look at the full list below.

Dealmaster: An Ars newsletter
The Dealmaster is launching its very own newsletter! Sign up to receive a shorter, tightly curated list of the very best tech deals on the Web—no nonsense, direct to your inbox, and often before they make it to the Ars homepage.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Top 10 deals of the day

Laptop and desktop PC deals

  • Asus ROG Strix G gaming laptop - Intel Core i5-9300H, 15.6-inch 1080p 120Hz, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, GTX 1660 Ti 6GB + Asus ROG Gladius II gaming mouse for $899 at Walmart (normally $1,299).
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'Ontario didn't vote for this': Group protests cuts to health services

From long wait lists for long-term care to people being treated in hospital hallways and ambulances being unable to unload their patients at overcrowded hospitals, Ontario’s health system is under stress and underfunded, a coalition of health workers, caregivers, parents and others said Tuesday.

A handful of people with the Ottawa Health Coalition — which is affiliated with the Ontario Health Coalition, a group that advocates for public health care — braved the cold outside The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus Monday to protest cuts to health services and inadequate funding.

Albert Dupuis, co-chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition, said the organization is planning a rally at TD Place on Dec. 7 to send the message to the provincial government that the health system needs to be better funded.

“Ontario didn’t vote for this. The government doesn’t have a mandate for what it is doing to our health care system. (Ontarians) voted to end hallway medicine and you don’t end hallway medicine by cutting the funding levels for institutions that are already over strapped.”

The province has increased funding to hospitals and long-term care, but generally not at the rate of inflation, which means health institutions, which were already strapped, are trying to do more with less, said Dupuis, who works delivering medication at the General campus of The Ottawa Hospital.

Dupuis said he sees the results of underfunding, including people being treated in the hallway.

Christine Conners, who attended the protest, is sole caregiver to her elderly brother who has dementia and disabilities. She says he needs to be in long-term care but she is unable to even get him on a list.

“It is killing me,” she said.

The Ontario Health Coalition says the government has announced plans to eliminate some public health units through planned amalgamations and some ambulance services, and make “real dollar cuts” to hospitals and long-term care homes.

The province has backed away from some earlier announced efficiencies, including major changes to the way autism services are delivered in the province. It is in the process of revamping the health care system by getting rid of the LHINs (regional health integration organizations) and creating health teams, the first of which are expected to be announced at the end of this month.

It is unclear how provincial changes will reduce the number of people being treated in hospital hallways, but the current situation has created crises at some hospitals, with cancellations of day surgeries and long ambulance offload delays, among other things. Meanwhile, waiting lists for long-term care in the province are at record levels.


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Bolivia's Morales Takes Asylum in Mexico

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales waving upon his arrival Tuesday in Mexico, which has granted him asylum. Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press
By
Ryan Dube and
John Otis

LA PAZ, Bolivia—Former President Evo Morales arrived Tuesday in Mexico after being granted asylum, leaving chaos behind him as Bolivian legislators struggled to name a successor and army troops and police patrolled streets to prevent violence and looting.

Mr. Morales landed in Mexico City in a Gulfstream jet belonging to the Mexican Air Force after a circuitous, 15-hour trek across swaths of South America and a night of frantic diplomatic efforts involving officials of at least seven countries.

After resigning Sunday amid allegations that his government rigged last month’s presidential election, Mr. Morales struck a defiant tone upon arriving in Mexico, saying he was the victim of a coup and pledging to remain active in politics as long as he is alive. “Not because of this coup am I going to change ideologically…or stop working for the poor,” he told reporters at the Mexico City airport.

An armored vehicle patrolling the streets Tuesday as supporters of former President Evo Morales marched from El Alto to La Paz, Bolivia. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

Mr. Morales’s departure did little to alleviate the perilous vacuum of power created after he, his vice president and the two top lawmakers in congress resigned. Their departures have left the country without a president or other executive leader as turmoil ruled in the streets, with mobs devoted to Mr. Morales burning buses and attacking police stations.

Jeanine Añez, vice president of the Senate, said she was next in line to be president and pledged that Congress would convene later Tuesday to vote on accepting Mr. Morales’s resignation and forming a new government.

“The country can’t go forward without a new head of state,” Ms. Añez told a news conference at the Congress building. “This is urgent. This is what the Bolivian people want.”

It wasn’t clear, however, whether lawmakers from Mr. Morales’s still-powerful party, Movement toward Socialism or MAS, would show up in Congress. They control two-thirds of the legislature and by staying away could deny it the necessary quorum to vote on a new president.

MAS Congressman Javier Quispe said most lawmakers from his party would boycott today’s session because they fear being attacked by anti-Morales protesters. He demanded that Congress guarantee their safety by meeting in El Alto, a largely indigenous city overlooking the capital of La Paz that has long been a stronghold for Mr. Morales.

Mr. Quispe also said that rather than Ms. Añez, Adriana Salvatierra, the Senate president and a MAS member, was next in line to be president, even though she announced her resignation on Sunday and is now holed up in the Mexican Embassy in La Paz.

“What Sen. Añez is doing is illegal,” Mr. Quispe told Bolivia’s Panamericana radio station.

But Ms. Añez claimed that, after delays in reaching the capital due to roadblocks and protests, lawmakers, including MAS deputies, were gradually arriving at the congress building and that enough would show up to form a quorum.

“We have learned that some want to boycott the session,” she said. “However, legislators on both sides have confirmed they will attend.”

Supporters of Mr. Morales carrying ‘wiphala’ flags representing indigenous peoples as they marched into La Paz on Tuesday. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

In El Alto and La Paz, people were bracing on Tuesday for violent protests as roads were blocked off by burned barricades, rocks and cables. Restaurants, pharmacies and most other stores were shut and schools canceled classes. In some neighborhoods in La Paz, small groups of men stood guard in front of their homes holding lengths of lumber, hoping to stave off looters and vandals. In other areas, supporters of Mr. Morales marched toward the center of La Paz carrying the rainbow-colored indigenous flag known as the wiphala.

In Mexico City, Mr. Morales said he left Bolivia out of fear for his life and to prevent further bloodshed. On Nov. 9, he said, a military member of his security team showed him messages in which $50,000 was being offered for turning Mr. Morales in. He didn’t say who made the offer or give any further details.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday his country decided to grant asylum “for humanitarian reasons, and given the urgent situation faced in Bolivia” after Mr. Morales made a request in a phone call.

Mexico on Monday secured permission for the plane to land and refuel in the Peruvian capital Lima on its way to Bolivia. According to Mr. Ebrard, although it had been authorized to enter Bolivian airspace, once the plane approached Bolivia, the permission was revoked and it had to return to Lima.

Eventually, the Bolivian Air Force provided authorization and the plane reached the airport in Chimoré, where Mr. Morales had fled Sunday after resigning from the presidency.

The plane planned to return by the same route, but as it was about to take off, Peru revoked permission for it to land again and refuel in Lima.

“It was a very difficult, very intense situation because the airport where Evo Morales was located was surrounded by his followers or supporters, and inside the airport were Bolivian armed-forces personnel. That was the most tense moment for us. We had to come up with a Plan B,” Mr. Ebrard told a morning news conference.

With the assistance of Argentina’s President-elect Alberto Fernández, Mexico obtained authorization for the plane to land and refuel in the Paraguayan capital Asunción, south of Bolivia, although further diplomatic efforts were needed to again get permission to leave Bolivia.

Once the plane was in Paraguay, Peru agreed to allow the plane to cross its airspace—but not to land and refuel—so Mexico contacted the government in Ecuador, which said the plane could refuel in Guayaquil, if needed, on the Pacific coast.

But by then, Bolivia had again revoked permission for the plane to cross its airspace, leaving it with no way back until Brazil said it would allow it to fly around Bolivia over Brazilian airspace. Finally, a decision was made for the plane not to refuel in Ecuador, but instead cross Peru to reach international waters on its way to Mexico.

“It’s like a journey through Latin American politics, how decisions are taken, and the risks that are run,” Mr. Ebrard said in summarizing the ordeal.

Write to Ryan Dube at ryan.dube@dowjones.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Sudden death of toddler on flight prompts emergency landing at St. John's airport

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has confirmed there was a sudden death of a young child on an international flight, which prompted an emergency medical landing in St. John's International Airport on Tuesday.

Police and paramedics were dispatched to the airport where Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 35 had landed, shortly before noon.

The RNC confirmed a two-year-old died. The death is not believed to be suspicious.

Police said the investigation is ongoing and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will be involved.

Saudia Airlines Flight 35 took off from St. John's International Airport around 3 p.m. Tuesday after the emegency medical landing. (Katie Breen/CBC)

According to FlightView.com, the Boeing 777 had departed from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and was heading to Washington, D.C.

The St. John's International Airport Authority said the flight departed around 3 p.m.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Turkey Pursues Probe Into Death of British Supporter of White Helmets

Istanbul’s Forensic Medicine Institute is conducting an autopsy into the death of former British army officer James Le Mesurier. Photo: Omer Kuscu/Associated Press
By
David Gauthier-Villars in Istanbul and
Thomas Grove in Moscow

Turkish authorities said they needed to further investigate the death of a Briton who helped create the Syrian relief group White Helmets and was accused by Russia of being a spy, a day after a preliminary finding suggested he fell from his apartment window.

A former British Army officer, James Le Mesurier, was found dead early Monday, his body lying in a narrow street of Istanbul’s central Beyoglu district, several feet away from his home.

Some city officials on Tuesday raised doubts about the preliminary investigation, pointing to the fact that Mr. Le Mesurier lived on the second floor of a low building. Istanbul prosecutors said more autopsy and forensic work was necessary to explain the incident. The city’s governor, Ali Yerlikaya, said authorities have been mobilized to shed light on Mr. Le Mesurier’s death.

Mr. Le Mesurier was known for his role in helping to create the White Helmets, a Syrian civil-defense group whose volunteers have earned praise in the West for providing humanitarian relief to rebel-held areas in Syria. The group also rose to prominence for documenting the bombing of civilians by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army and the government’s main backer, Russia.

Russian authorities have repeatedly criticized the group and its online videos, accusing the White Helmets of consorting with and providing cover to terrorist groups. Last week, a Russian Foreign Ministry official also accused Mr. Le Mesurier of being a spy who had links with armed groups from the Balkans to the Middle East.

On Tuesday, however, the foreign ministry criticized what it said were attempts to imply Russia was behind Mr. Le Mesurier’s death.

“The incident has been linked with recent statements by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova of November 8 of this year, which expose the activities of the British agent,” the statement on the ministry’s Facebook page read.

James Le Mesurier near Istanbul’s Golden Horn in an undated photo. Photo: Associated Press

“Hot news is followed by an emotional story whereby “those Russians” are accused of everything and another media scandal is presented as “highly likely,”’ the post read. The phrase “those Russians” was used by former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May when she cast suspicion on Russia for the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018.

The White Helmets produced videos that repeatedly struck at the image Russia has tried to project since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015. Moscow has characterized its entry as a mission to help the embattled Assad government in its fight against terrorist groups.

But White Helmets videos presented a different narrative of the conflict and have been repeatedly used by international aid groups and Western politicians as evidence of Mr. Assad’s attacks against civilians, including civilian hospitals.

In 2006, Russia passed a law permitting the killing of extremists abroad, a measure many have viewed as giving a green light to the country’s security agencies to kill enemies of the Kremlin in foreign countries.

Istanbul has been the scene for the killing of a handful of Chechen rebels, who had fought against Moscow in Russia’s two Chechen wars since independence. Some close to the Chechen community there say Russian special operations officers have been able to work with impunity on Turkish territory as ties between Mr. Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flourished in recent years.

Write to David Gauthier-Villars at David.Gauthier-Villars@wsj.com and Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Trump Predicted More Leaks Amid WikiLeaks Releases in 2016, Ex-Aide Testifies

WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump told a top aide during the height of the 2016 campaign that “more information would be coming” — an apparent reference to upcoming releases by WikiLeaks of hacked Democratic emails, the aide, Rick Gates, said on Tuesday during testimony in the trial of Roger J. Stone Jr. The candidate made the comment after a July 2016 phone call with Mr. Stone, Mr. Gates said.

Russian operatives stole tens of thousands of emails from Democratic computers in early 2016 and funneled them to WikiLeaks as part of an effort to sabotage the 2016 race and improve Mr. Trump’s chances of election.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Stone talked by phone on July 31 as Mr. Trump rode to La Guardia Airport, nine days after WikiLeaks had rattled Hillary Clinton’s campaign by releasing thousands of stolen Democratic emails, Mr. Gates testified. Although he could not hear the conversation from his seat in the back of the S.U.V. they were riding in, Mr. Gates said, he could see Mr. Stone’s cellphone number on a console. As soon as he hung up, he said, Mr. Trump turned to him and predicted more information would be released.

His testimony underscored the limits of President Trump’s cooperation with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who this spring finished his two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump refused to be interviewed, agreeing only to respond to written questions, a stance that frustrated the special counsel’s team.

In written answers, Mr. Trump said he recalled no conversations with Mr. Stone during the six months before he was elected. He also said he did not recall ever discussing WikiLeaks with Mr. Stone, or knowing that his campaign aides were talking to Mr. Stone about WikiLeaks.

Mr. Gates said that “for months” before WikiLeaks’ July 22 release of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Stone had predicted to Mr. Trump’s aides that WikiLeaks had planned moves that would damage Mrs. Clinton. Campaign officials had brainstormed about how to react, he said, but their confidence in Mr. Stone’s predictions faltered as weeks passed and nothing happened.

When WikiLeaks disclosed nearly 20,000 emails that embarrassed Mrs. Clinton just before the Democratic National Convention, the Trump campaign “was in a state of happiness,” Mr. Gates said. “It was in a way a gift.”

WikiLeaks then released more emails in October and November that Russian operatives stole from the computer of John D. Podesta, the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Some of those emails cast the campaign in a negative light and kicked off last-minute controversies before the election.

Much of what Mr. Gates said in court is reflected in Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report, parts of which were blacked out because of secrecy rules governing grand jury evidence and other issues, a person familiar with the report said.

Mr. Stone, a 40-year friend and former campaign adviser of Mr. Trump’s, is on trial on charges of lying to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the committee was conducting its own investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, including the role of WikiLeaks.

Mr. Stone is also charged with trying to block the testimony of another witness who would have contradicted his account.

Prosecutors, who wrapped up their case on Tuesday morning, said Mr. Stone, 67, lied because the truth about his attempts to reach Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, would have reflected badly on Mr. Trump and his campaign. Defense lawyers have argued that Mr. Stone never deliberately misled investigators, but simply confined his answers to what he believed were the strict parameters of the committee’s inquiry.

Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge overseeing the trial in Washington, said she expects the case to go the jury by Wednesday, unless she grants a defense motion for acquittal filed Tuesday.

The charges against Mr. Stone carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, although the punishment for a defendant with no criminal record, like Mr. Stone, would almost certainly be far lighter.

Mr. Gates, who served as Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, has been a prominent witness in criminal prosecutions by Mr. Mueller’s team against Mr. Trump’s former aides. After pleading guilty to conspiracy and lying to federal investigators in early 2018, he testified about financial crimes he committed with Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign chairman. Mr. Manafort was convicted and is now serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison term.

Mr. Gates, who may be sentenced next month, is hoping that his cooperation with federal prosecutors will spare him a prison term, leaving him instead on probation.

Like Stephen K. Bannon, another former top Trump campaign official, he testified that Mr. Stone implied that he had inside information from WikiLeaks about the content or timing of its releases of the stolen Democratic emails. He said Mr. Stone had asked for the contact information for Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior campaign adviser, and for another top political aide, so he could pass information to them.

The Stone case is the third in which Mr. Gates has appeared as a prosecution witness. He also testified in August in a high-profile case against Gregory B. Craig, an aide to former President Barack Obama who was found not guilty of charges related to foreign lobbying. Mr. Gates said Tuesday that F.B.I. agents and prosecutors had interviewed him about 40 to 50 times.

Besides the cases against Mr. Stone and Mr. Gates, there is one other prosecution brought by Mr. Mueller that remains to be resolved. Michael T. Flynn, a former national security adviser for Mr. Trump who pleaded guilty to lying to F.B.I. agents in 2017, awaits sentencing.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

Telus invests $500,000 to bring wireless service to First Nation’s community in B.C.

Telus announced that it invested more than $500,000 to build a new cell site in Ahousaht, a First Nations community in Tofino, British Columbia.

Construction on the cell tower is almost complete and Telus expects the site to be live in December. The cell site will provide residents with Telus’ 4G LTE network.

The carrier says that it is the first provider to bring high-speed wireless voice, text and internet services to the community.

“We have been engaged with the community of Ahousaht First Nation for over a year to collaboratively determine the best way to bring wireless service to this remote area, recognizing how critical this service is to Ahousaht residents, said Shaye Draper, Telus’ general manager for Vancouver Island, in a press release.

This investment is part of the carrier’s commitment to invest $4.7 billion throughout British Columbia between 2017 and 2020.

Telus says that it serves 178 First Nations communities in British Columbia with wireless and broadband wireline technologies. It says that it has collaborated with 46 Indigenous Governments to bring services to their communities.

Source: Telus 

The SoftBank Effect: How $100 Billion Left Workers in a Hole

For five years, Sunil Solankey, a retired captain in the Indian Army, had run the 20-room Four Sight Hotel in a New Delhi suburb. Business was steady, but he longed to make the establishment a destination for lucrative business travelers.

Last year, a hospitality start-up called Oyo told Mr. Solankey that it would turn the Four Sight into a flagship hotel for corporate customers. It guaranteed him monthly payments whether the rooms were booked or not, as long as he rebranded the property with Oyo’s name and sold the rooms exclusively through its site.

At Oyo’s request, Mr. Solankey sank 600,000 rupees, or $8,400, into reupholstering the hotel’s furniture and adding new linens. But corporate guests did not materialize, and Oyo stopped making the payments. Now he is on the verge of eviction.

Mr. Solankey is one of millions of workers and small-business people who worked with start-ups financed by the biggest venture capital fund in history, the $100 billion Vision Fund run by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank. The fund was part of a flood of money that has washed over the world in the past decade — and that has upended people’s lives when the start-ups broke their promises.

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s chief executive, was hailed as a kingmaker in 2016 when he unveiled the Vision Fund. Using the cash hoard, Mr. Son poured money into fledgling companies across the world, many of which have a business model of hiring contractors who deliver their services. Above all, he urged these start-ups to grow as fast as possible.

Many of the young companies used SoftBank’s cash to dangle incentives and other payments to quickly attract as many workers as they could. But when they failed to make a profit and SoftBank changed its tune on growth, the companies often slashed or reneged on those same incentives.

That has now left contractors like Mr. Solankey holding the bag. With little power to fight back, many of them have been financially and personally devastated.

Image
Credit...Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

The New York Times reviewed contracts and internal company documents, and interviewed more than 50 workers with SoftBank-funded start-ups like Oyo, the delivery firm Rappi and the real estate brokerage Compass in places such as Chicago, New Delhi, Beijing and Bogotá, Colombia. What emerged was a pattern that repeated across the world: a distinctly modern version of the bait-and-switch.

“These start-ups try to get workers attracted to them and bring them within the fold,” said Uma Rani, a researcher at the International Labor Organization who is surveying start-up contractors in emerging economies. “When the workers attach to the whole thing and are highly dependent on it, then you slash it. This is something we are systematically seeing.”

SoftBank’s Vision Fund is an emblem of a broader phenomenon known as “overcapitalization” — essentially, too much cash. Venture funds inundated start-ups with more than $207 billion last year, or almost twice the amount invested globally during the dot-com peak in 2000, according to CB Insights, a firm that tracks private companies.

Flush with the cash, entrepreneurs operated with scant oversight and little regard for profit. All the while, SoftBank and other investors have valued these start-ups at inflated levels, leading to an overheated system filled with unsound businesses. When the companies try to cash out by going public, some have run into hurdles.

At two of SoftBank’s biggest investments, WeWork and Uber, some of these issues have become public. Uber, the ride-hailing service, staged an underwhelming initial public offering in May and posted a $1.2 billion loss last week. WeWork, the office leasing company, recently ousted its chief executive and accepted a rescue plan from SoftBank as its value was cut. Last week, SoftBank reported a $4.6 billion hit from its WeWork investment.

Since the money started pouring out of SoftBank, they have completely distorted the priorities and focus of young ventures around the world,” said Len Sherman, a Columbia Business School professor.

SoftBank backs companies in a variety of industries. The Vision Fund’s 88 investments include the e-commerce firm Coupang in Seoul, South Korea, and the messaging company Slack in San Francisco. And SoftBank is far from the only firm to invest in start-ups that rely on contractors.

But none have invested as widely in these companies as SoftBank. The Vision Fund, which is nearly 10 times larger than the next-biggest venture fund, has 16 of them in its portfolio. Several are among its largest investments.

The model of using contractors, which has defined the last decade of start-up investing, has created work opportunities. But among people who are most dependent on these companies, unrest is growing.

Protests against SoftBank-funded start-ups have erupted in New York, Bogotá, Mumbai and beyond, with many captured on video and posted to YouTube. Some of the videos, which have been viewed thousands of times, showed chanting workers or destruction of property. All displayed a visible frustration.

In China alone, three SoftBank-backed companies — the logistics firm Manbang, the ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing and the food delivery company Ele.me — faced 32 strikes last year, according to data gathered for The Times by the China Labour Bulletin.

Jeff Housenbold, a managing partner at SoftBank’s Vision Fund, said, “This is an important, complex issue that predates the Vision Fund and affects many companies we haven’t backed in equal measure.”

That is of little comfort to contractors like Mr. Solankey. “I am in the pit,” he said.

‘The Global SoftBank’

In an investor call in 2015, Mr. Son said he was embarking on SoftBank’s second stage. He called it “the global SoftBank.”

Mr. Son, now 62, the child of Korean immigrants to Japan, had built the company into a telecom conglomerate. He had also successfully invested in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba in the 1990s.

Now he wanted to diversify. In late 2014, SoftBank started by putting hundreds of millions of dollars into three ride-hailing companies that copied Uber: India’s Ola, GrabTaxi in Southeast Asia and China’s Kuaidi Dache, which later merged with its biggest rival, Didi.

SoftBank’s Backing

In the last five years, the Japanese firm led or was part of large fund-raising rounds for these 16 companies that rely on contractors.

Start-Up

Country

Industry

Funding Rounds

Didi Chuxing

China

Ride hailing

$20.4 billion

GrabTaxi

Singapore

Ride hailing

$8.65 billion

Uber

U.S.

Ride hailing

$6.85 billion

Ele.me

China

Delivery

$3 billion

Ola

India

Ride hailing

$2.79 billion

Manbang

China

Trucking

$1.9 billion

DoorDash

U.S.

Delivery

$1.79 billion

Oyo

India

Hotels

$1.55 billion

Compass

U.S.

Real estate

$1.32 billion

Rappi

Colombia

Delivery

$1 billion

Delhivery

India

Delivery

$410 million

Wag

U.S.

Dog walking

$300 million

Loggi

Brazil

Delivery

$260 million

99

Brazil

Ride hailing

$200 million

Grofers

India

Delivery

$180 million

Buser

Brazil

Bus charters

N/A

Note: Investments are the amounts from funding rounds that included SoftBank and other backers. | Source: PitchBook and company reports

Mr. Son made it clear the money was for growth. “We always work toward further growth, and we will sow seeds for the further growth,” he said at the time.

When he announced the $100 billion Vision Fund, the biggest contributions came from the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, with smaller investments from companies like Apple.

Few venture funds had raised even $1 billion before. Mr. Son said he wanted the money to go to companies pursuing artificial intelligence and the “Singularity,” when computers become smarter than humans.

But he was enamored with Uber-like businesses that used contractors. “Uber, using internet, changed the business model,” he said in 2016. SoftBank invested in Uber two years later.

Over time, SoftBank and start-ups with contractors became mutually dependent. SoftBank needed places to deploy its billions, and it often provided $100 million or more at a time to these companies. The start-ups needed vast sums to attract workers.

At Ola, where SoftBank was the largest shareholder, 62 percent of what drivers earned in 2016 came from investor money rather than fares, according to the data firm RedSeer.

When some of the start-ups cut costs, often prodded by SoftBank, they reduced payments to workers. Many contractors said they wanted to stop working with the start-ups, but couldn’t because of upfront investments they had to pay off.

In response, drivers for Grab smashed the windows of the company’s offices in Jakarta, Indonesia, last year. At a 2017 demonstration against Ola in Bangalore, India, one driver set himself on fire and another drank poison.

Last week, when Mr. Son discussed SoftBank’s earnings, he said: “I learned a lot of lessons, but no change in our strategy. We don’t see any rough sea.”

‘It Is Suicidal for Me’

SoftBank’s money barreled into Mr. Solankey’s hotel in July 2018.

That month, Oyo told the hotelier it would bring him high-paying corporate travelers if he joined its network and upgraded the property. Under the arrangement, Oyo guaranteed him monthly payments of 700,000 rupees, or around $10,000, for three years, according to a contract viewed by The Times.

Mr. Solankey, now 63, agreed.

But within a year, the payments evaporated. Instead of business customers, unmarried couples looking for private rooms turned up. And Oyo discounted the rooms so much online that Mr. Solankey could not offer them to guests at a higher price.

“It is suicidal for me,” he said while sitting recently in his hotel’s empty restaurant.

Oyo said Mr. Solankey had misrepresented the health of his business before signing the contract.

Oyo was founded in 2013 as a website to organize and standardize India’s budget hotels. It coaxes small hotels to become Oyo-branded destinations that list exclusively on its site, without its having to own most of the properties.

SoftBank, which began investing in Oyo in 2015 and now owns nearly half the start-up, has pushed to add more hotels to the company’s network. Last month, it helped the site raise $1.5 billion, valuing it at $10 billion and making it India’s second-most-valuable start-up.

“It’s completely a new type of hotel, and they are growing so fast,” Mr. Son said of Oyo last year. “The number of rooms and net growth is going to continue at the pace of more than 10,000.”

Oyo now claims to offer more than 1.2 million rooms, including in China and the United States, where it recently bought the Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas.

It has scaled up partly by promising hoteliers monthly payments, made possible by SoftBank’s money. The payments, which are an advance on the hotel owner’s share of room revenue, were supposed to be paid no matter how many rooms were booked.

In exchange, the hotels added free breakfasts and linens in Oyo’s signature red and white. They agreed to book all rooms — even walk-in guests — through Oyo and let it control how the rooms were sold on other sites.

But those payments led to rising losses in India. And over the last year, SoftBank has pushed Oyo on profitability rather than just growth, said current and former employees of the start-up, who declined to be named for fear of retaliation.

Several hotel associations said Oyo had now canceled or cut the payments. Some also said Oyo had deeply discounted room rates and increased its commissions and fees.

In June, more than 70 hoteliers in the coastal city of Kochi marched to Oyo’s local headquarters before a two-day strike against the site. The unrest spread to Bangalore, New Delhi and other cities. Last month, the Competition Commission of India opened an antitrust investigation into Oyo’s practices.

“The situation is so bad, we’re looking at it as a scam,” said Pradeep Shetty, the honorary joint secretary of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India, which represents around 3,000 hotels and filed the competition complaint.

Ritesh Agarwal, who founded Oyo when he was 19, said in an interview that only a few hotels had been unhappy or tried to leave. He said Oyo had occasionally reduced the guaranteed minimums, but only when hotels had misrepresented their business in contract negotiations.

“Asset owners continue to believe that Oyo is the best option in terms of the value proposition we can provide for them,” he said.

Not Mr. Solankey. He said he was losing 150,000 rupees, or $2,100, a month. While he plans to quit Oyo, he needs the money the company owes him. Oyo has offered to pay just half the debt — and then only if he signs a new contract with no guaranteed payments, according to correspondence shared with The Times.

Mr. Solankey has taken out loans, but fallen behind on rent and electricity payments. In September, his power was temporarily cut off. This month, his landlord asked him to vacate the property.

Taking Safety Risks

Farley Molina was delivering a Papa John’s pizza in Medellín, Colombia, last month when a motorcyclist grabbed his cellphone, his cash and the orange bag he uses to carry packages for the start-up Rappi.

Mr. Molina reported the theft to Rappi. The company told him to pay back the $35 he had collected from customers and buy a new cellphone himself.

Mr. Molina, 21, borrowed money from his mother. “They never support us,” he said of Rappi.

Like many SoftBank-funded start-ups, Rappi not only depends on contractors to deliver its services but also offloads its fixed costs — and the risks of the work — onto them.

The company, established in 2016 by three Colombian entrepreneurs, harnesses bike and motorcycle riders to deliver everything from flowers to cash from the A.T.M. In Colombia alone, it has 20,000 couriers.

This year, SoftBank gave Rappi $1 billion — twice as much as what the company had gotten from all its previous investors combined. In announcing the funding, SoftBank declared that the start-up, which it valued at $2.5 billion, would be responsible for “improving the lives of millions in the region.”

SoftBank’s money has helped Rappi expand into nine South American countries. And the company initially offered drivers 3,500 pesos, or around $1, for every delivery — enough to earn more than Colombia’s minimum wage of around $8 a day.

In return, couriers provided their own cellphones, bikes and motorcycles. They had to buy a Rappi delivery bag, which costs around $25. And they have to shoulder most of the physical risks of delivery.

In August, a judge in Argentina ordered Rappi and two other delivery services there to shut down until they provided workers with insurance and safety equipment like helmets. The judge said 25 couriers had been treated in Buenos Aires public hospitals over the previous month.

Rappi said it would appeal the decision, which it said “puts at risk the continuity of thousands of people’s income.” It has continued sending riders out on the streets.

In September, a survey of 320 Rappi couriers in Colombia, conducted by the University of Rosario and several nonprofits, found that nearly two-thirds had been involved in an accident on the job. Almost none were covered by insurance.

Simón Borrero, Rappi’s chief executive, said in an interview that Rappi had insurance to pay hospital bills for those injured on the job, but that it did not cover stolen personal items like Mr. Molina’s cellphone.

For couriers, the safety risks have been compounded by wage cuts. Rappi slashed its $1 basic delivery fee by 45 percent last year, around the time its annual losses tripled to $45 million, according to government filings.

“I sometimes have to work 17-hour shifts just to get by,” said Walter Salazar, 26, who started delivering for Rappi a year ago and now works seven days a week to afford a bed in a six-room dormitory.

Mr. Borrero said Rappi was designed for part-time workers, not those seeking a full-time living wage.

In July, around 100 workers protested outside Rappi’s headquarters in Bogotá. They made a bonfire out of the orange delivery bags.

A Cutting-Edge Brokerage

In an email last year, Robert Reffkin, the founder and chief executive of Compass, apologized to his company for its bumpy growth.

His New York firm, which received $1 billion from SoftBank, had sprouted to 8,000 real estate agents from 2,100 in a year. Mr. Reffkin said the company had been unprepared to integrate agencies it had bought and had pushed brokers to use technology that wasn’t ready.

“I’ve learned that moving too fast,” Mr. Reffkin wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Times, “can be just as dangerous as moving too slowly.”

Compass, which Mr. Reffkin founded in 2012 as a tech-enabled real estate firm, has expanded rapidly since SoftBank invested in 2017. Mr. Reffkin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, said in a Wired interview that year that the money would let it compress its three-year growth plan into one.

“They are making a great growth,” Mr. Son said of Compass in 2018. “This company, I believe, is going to be a great unicorn.”

Compass, which is valued at $6.4 billion, now has 13,000 agents, all contractors, in 238 offices across the United States. It has grown by promising some agents bonuses and 90 percent of the commissions on future deals, in an industry where 70 percent to 80 percent is standard.

The breakneck growth has led to cracks. Several top executives have recently left, as have recently arrived brokers.

One was Tricia Ponicki, 44, who started at a Compass office in Chicago in February. She said she had been drawn by the generous compensation; the company also promised more resources to aid home sales.

But there was so much turnover in Compass’s marketing offices that it took three months to produce a brochure for a house. When she requested a For Sale sign, she was told they were back ordered. Her husband made the sign instead.

“Right from the beginning, I was constantly being misled and misled,” she said.

Over six months with Compass, Ms. Ponicki sold one property, earning $4,300. A year earlier, she had netted around $100,000 selling homes at a local agency.

In August, the mother of four applied for food stamps. She also returned to her old agency, At Properties, where her sales have picked up, she said.

Compass employees and agents have generated less revenue per person than other online brokerage firms and, sometimes, even traditional ones, according to research by Mike DelPrete, an independent real estate strategist and visiting scholar at the University of Colorado.

Compass said that by its metrics, it was more efficient than other online firms. It declined to comment further.

Ms. Ponicki said she wondered how long Compass’s spending could last.

I realized the illusions you see in the mirror are not what they appear to be,” she said.

Karan Deep Singh, Raymond Zhong and Erin Griffith contributed reporting. Additional production by Meg Felling and Jared Miller.

Disney says it will allow Disney+ password sharing for now

Disney will allow Disney+ subscribers to share their accounts with other users — for the time being.

Speaking to The Verge, Michael Paull, president of Disney Streaming Services, said Disney will monitor password sharing activity and crack down in certain cases.

“Password sharing is definitely something we think about,” said Paull. On the other hand, Paull stressed that Disney+ offers a lot of value, especially for it’s relatively low $8.99 CAD/month cost. With Disney+, subscribers can receive access to all kinds of new, old and original content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and more.

“We believe that consumers will see that value, and they’re going to act accordingly,” Paull said. “They’re going to use those accounts for their family, for their household. That being said, we do recognize password sharing exists and will continue to exist.”

Therefore, Paull said Disney will allow password sharing in moderation. “We have created some technology that’s in the backend that we will use to understand behaviour,” he said. “And when we see behaviour that doesn’t make sense, we have mechanisms that we’ve put in place that will deal with it.”

It seems that he’s referring to a situation where someone shares their password with many people at once. That said, he didn’t elaborate, so it’s unclear exactly how many people will be able to share the same account. Likewise, it remains to be seen what, exactly, these “mechanisms” are and how they’ll “deal” with each situation.

Disney+ is now available in Canada, although the service is experiencing some technical difficulties.

Image credit: Disney

Source: The Verge

Mid-range Samsung Galaxy A51 to feature Infinity-O display, L-shaped rear camera setup

About this time last year Samsung revamped its mid-range smartphones with new features like in-display fingerprint scanners, notches and four rear-facing cameras.

Now, CAD-based renderings of a new Samsung smartphone with an interesting design have appeared online. The renderings were posted by OnLeaks together with Pricebaba.

Here comes your first look at the #Samsung #GalaxyA51! 360° video + official looking 5K renders + dimensions, on behalf of my Friends over at @Pricebaba -> https://t.co/mvayygNYd4 pic.twitter.com/2ianDjMH7y

— Steve H.McFly (@OnLeaks) November 12, 2019

This handset is the successor to the Galaxy A50, called the Galaxy A51.

The purported device sports a 6.5-inch display, a small chin and a centered hole punch cutout similar to the Galaxy Note 10 series.

The A51 sports a 3.5mm headphone jack, a loudspeaker, USB-C port and an in-display fingerprint scanner.

Additional rumours suggest that it features 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage, an Exynos 9611 chipset and a 4,000mAh battery.

There’s also a quad rear-facing L-shaped camera setup. The leak also suggests it uses a 48-megapixel primary camera, a depth sensor, a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens and, lastly, a 12-megapixel telephoto shooter.

It’s likely the smartphone will launch in 2020 and come in silver, black and blue.

Source: @OnLeaks, Pricebaba

Facebook’s iOS app can access the camera while you’re viewing the news feed

Facebook hasn’t had a great track record when it comes to user privacy, and thanks to an issue discovered in the social network’s iOS app, that track record is about to get worse.

A Facebook user by the name of Joshua Maddux revealed that the company’s iOS app runs the camera in the background. It appears to happen while scrolling through your news feed, and Maddux discovered the behaviour and shared a recording of it online. In the recording, you can see the camera working in the background.

The feed appears as a tiny sliver on the left side of the screen and appears after opening a photo and swiping down. The `Next Web was able to replicate the behaviour as well. It’s worth noting that the bug only appears to be present on iPhones running iOS 13.2.2. Phones with iOS 13.1.3 don’t have the issue — I was able to confirm this on my iPhone XS — and iOS 12 also doesn’t have the issue. The issue isn’t present on Android, according to TNW, which tested it on a Pixel 4 with Android 10.

Found a @facebook #security & #privacy issue. When the app is open it actively uses the camera. I found a bug in the app that lets you see the camera open behind your feed. Note that I had the camera pointed at the carpet. pic.twitter.com/B8b9oE1nbl

— Joshua Maddux (@JoshuaMaddux) November 10, 2019

It’s also worth noting that Facebook can’t access the camera unless a user grants permission to the app. Without the camera permission, iOS blocks Facebook’s ability to access the camera.

At the moment, it isn’t clear if this is expected behaviour or a bug. My money is on a bug, considering the camera runs in the background on some iOS versions on and not on other versions. However, that doesn’t excuse the issue, nor does it make Facebook’s ability to run the camera in the background any less concerning. Coupled with past Facebook privacy issues, such as Cambridge Analytica, this bug is even worse.

For now, iOS users should block Facebook’s access to the camera. To do so, open the Settings app on iOS and scroll down through the apps to Facebook. Tap it, and under the ‘Allow Facebook to access’ section, toggle off ‘Camera.’ For good measure while there, turn off the microphone permission as well.

Source: @JoshuaMaddux Via: The Next Web

Mark Sanford Drops Trump Primary Challenge: ‘You’ve Got to Be a Realist’

WASHINGTON — Former Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina said on Tuesday that he was ending his long-shot primary challenge to President Trump just two months after announcing it, arguing that the impeachment inquiry had made it impossible for his message of fiscal conservatism to break through.

“You’ve got to be a realist and what I did not anticipate is an impeachment,” Mr. Sanford said at a news conference in Concord, N.H., where he announced the end of his campaign.

Mr. Sanford conceded that his bid had been “a long shot, but we wanted to try and interject this issue, how much we’re spending, into the national debate, which comes along once every four years.” He said he found no “appetite for a serious nuanced debate with impeachment in the air.”

During his short-lived, quixotic campaign, Mr. Sanford made it clear he did not support the impeachment inquiry unfolding on Capitol Hill. And unlike the other two Republican primary challengers in the race, Mr. Sanford never mounted an argument based on Mr. Trump’s fitness for office, saying instead that he would support Mr. Trump in a general election if he became the party’s nominee.

“If you’re going to run against Trump without being able to criticize this abuse of power, there doesn’t seem to be a clear case for your candidacy,” said Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist who has been working to resist Mr. Trump from within the party. “He always tried to make it about an issue. A single-issue candidacy around the debt in this era can’t find much oxygen.”

Mr. Sanford was one of three Republican primary challengers attempting to peel off support from a president whose approval ratings in his own party rank consistently in the high 80s. He was joined in the David-vs.-Goliath struggle by Joe Walsh, a former Tea Party-backed congressman from Illinois, and William F. Weld, a former Massachusetts governor. Both are still running.

The “three stooges,” as Mr. Trump branded them on Twitter, saw themselves more as the Three Musketeers, who together hoped to create a chorus of Republican voices opposing Mr. Trump from different viewpoints.

A longtime foil for Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanford, who served two separate stints in the House of Representatives in addition to serving as governor, was seen in some respects as the most viable of the trio, as the one who might have had the most success in getting under Mr. Trump’s skin and hectoring him from the right on the issue of the federal debt.

A onetime A-list Republican with a strong conservative anti-spending message, Mr. Sanford’s political career almost ended for good in 2009, when he acknowledged an extramarital affair with a woman whom he secretly visited in Argentina while his aides claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was censured but served out the rest of his term as governor, stepping down in 2011.

Mr. Sanford came back for another political act, however, winning re-election to the House in 2013. He was elected twice more but lost a Republican primary in 2018 to a candidate backed by Mr. Trump, Katie Arrington. Ms. Arrington was ultimately defeated by a Democrat.

Of the three Republican primary challengers, Mr. Sanford in the end had the hardest time differentiating himself from Mr. Trump after he said he did not support impeachment.

“I respect Mark,” said William Kristol, the conservative writer and former editor of the now defunct magazine The Weekly Standard. “He at least tried to step up, when so many other Republicans haven’t done anything.”

Mr. Kristol, who has been a prominent “Never Trump” Republican since Mr. Trump was elected in 2016, has been working hard over the past year to recruit candidates to run against him.

The Trump campaign dismissed Mr. Sanford’s exit from the stage in the same way it had dismissed him while he was running.

“His candidacy had escaped our attention,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign.

In reality, however, the campaign had been systematically working to ensure the trio of challengers had no way to break through. The Republican Parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina, meanwhile, canceled the 2020 presidential primaries in their states, making it virtually impossible for Mr. Trump’s challengers to build support.

And the campaign has also changed the rules in 37 states and territories for choosing delegates to the Republican National Convention, an effort to ensure there are no dissenting voices at the party gathering in Charlotte next year.

Safari Supports NFC, USB, and Lightning FIDO2-Compliant Security Keys in iOS 13.3

The iOS 13.3 update that is currently available to developers and public beta testers has a new Safari feature that supports NFC, USB, and Lightning FIDO2-compliant security keys.

This option was activated in the first beta of iOS 13.3, but in the second developer beta, Apple has added details about it in the release notes.

Now supports NFC, USB, and Lightning FIDO2-compliant security keys in Safari, SFSafariViewController, and ASWebAuthenticationSession using the WebAuthn standard, on devices with the necessary hardware capabilities.
With the iOS 13.3 update, Safari will support physical security keys like the Lightning-equipped YubiKey, which can be used for more secure two-factor authentication.

Yubico announced the YubiKey 5Ci back in August, but at the time of launch, it was of limited usefulness because it did not work with Safari, Chrome, or other major browsers, though it was compatible with apps like 1Password.

With Safari support, the YubiKey 5Ci is a legitimately useful tool that can be more convenient than software-based two-factor authentication because there's no need to enter a security code -- you simply plug it in to an iPhone or Mac (there's also a USB-C connector) to authenticate. Support for FIDO2-compliant USB security keys using WebAuthn was previously added to Safari 13 in macOS.

Other NFC, USB, and Lightning-based security keys will also work with Safari following the iOS 13.3 update. There's no word yet on when iOS 13.3 will be released, but we may see it sometime in December after a few more weeks of beta testing.

Pixel 4-series November security patch reportedly rolling out now

Long has been the dark night of the Pixel 4’s lost November security update, but it seems as if the sun is finally rising on the unsecured Pixel serfs.

 Android Police is now reporting that some unlocked Pixel 4 devices are beginning to get the November security update. Although, we haven’t been able to download it yet on our review units.

Google has been cagey with information on the update telling users: “You’ll get it when you get it.”

When the update does roll out, Pixel 4-series users can look forward to smooth display and camera improvements.

Source: Android Police

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