Biden needs TikTok

Also in today's edition: Facebook's red carpet, the IPO gaze, rural data guzzlers

Good morning! Amazon announced the dates for the release of Lord Of The Rings Tv show. It is set to air in September 2022. Curious fact, the Peter Jackson interpretation of the book released in 2001. JRR Tolkien wrote the first of the series, Hobbit, in 1937. The positive here, the source material is all in and there are no spoilers. The negative, no Ian McKellen. 

On to the day’s stories:

  1. Black Friday shipments are delayed.

  2. Birla puts his papers in.

  3. Why would someone hack a healthcare system?

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Birla gives an idea to save Vodafone-Idea

With a debt-laden Vodafone-Idea (VI) gasping for survival, Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla has offered to give up his 27% stake in the company to the government.

Going under: VI’s market share of 30% in January has slid to 25% now but it still has a subscriber base of 270 million. With a debt of $30 billion, however, it might soon go bankrupt, leaving the field to Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

No saviours: VI needs INR 250 billion to save itself but there are no takers. The government said it has already extended the moratorium on spectrum payments, given more time to pay for airwaves and reduced license fees.

Clearly not enough: Nationalizing VI might be the only way to avoid a telecom duopoly but that’ll be tough when the government’s finances are stretched and it is trying to sell off its ownership in companies such as BPCL and LIC. Besides, state-owned telecom operator BSNL itself is not in great shape.

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China Plays Mind Games

An outlet run by Chinese State media, the Xinhua News Agency, published a scathing critique of online gaming, branding it ‘spiritual opium’. Although the story was later modified to soften the tone, it retained its concerns over the industry’s impact on children. This led to the stocks of many companies involved in gaming falling off a cliff.

Tencent was among the hardest hit, seeing around $60 billion wiped off its market cap. After all, its title Honor of Kings was singled out for being so addictive that children played it for over eight hours a day. It swiftly announced it would implement fresh curbs to restrict minors’ access to online games. The tech firm will further limit play time for minors and forbid in-game purchases for those under 12.

That’s perhaps better than waiting for the authorities to come down, as they did on ed-tech firms last week. Similarly, JD may want to rethink its approach to the gaming industry.

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Your Shipment Has Been Delayed

The Black Friday sale may be months away but there are already hiccups that could dampen shopping spirits this year. Floods in Western Europe and the Henan province in China, which house major transport and industrial hubs, are delaying raw material supplies.

It’s a costly affair: It is the latest in a series of disruptions in global trade, 60% of which is carried out in shipping containers. The Covid-19 pandemic first interrupted ships at ports in China and then the Suez Canal had a traffic jam, holding up Asia-Europe liners for days. Shipping lines carefully position containers across the globe to make sure they don’t go empty. The pandemic-induced shutdowns threw this meticulous planning in disarray. It is yet to return to normal. 

We need more: Although there are ~180 million containers at sea, they are stuck in Western ports, creating shortages elsewhere. Adding to the problem, orders for new containers were canceled because of the pandemic. China dominates the container market. 

The Signal

The disruption in global shipping will further strain supply chains. Everything transported by sea will become more expensive. The Drewry World Container Index for a 40-foot container stood at $9,330 as of July 29, more than quadrupling from a year ago. Another lockdown in China because of a third wave is only going to make matters worse. It could also affect India’s exports which were showing signs of a turnaround.

Fun fact: Remember Ever Given, the ship that choked up the Suez Canal? It’s now a tourist attraction.

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Those heartless hackers

Earlier this week, hackers targeted Italy’s health systems, locking out thousands from booking their vaccine appointments. The Italian law enforcement authorities haven’t divulged any information on the hacker group or their demands yet.

Not the first time: In May, hackers locked out people from seeking treatment and getting vaccinations for Covid-19 in Ireland. They had asked for ransom of over $20 million. The Irish government refused and the group after international pressure was forced to relinquish control of the data. 

Not just health systems: Five telecom companies across the world have been compromised by hackers, researchers say. In India, security researchers have warned that large Indian tech companies are at risk as well via phishing attacks.

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White House Dances Off With Misinformation

Governments and companies are redoubling efforts to fight misinformation. The White House has enlisted social media influencers, including Twitch streamers, YouTubers and TikTok creators who have massive fan followings, to fight vaccine misinformation and promote jabs among youngsters.

Bird joins agencies: Twitter said it is joining hands with The Associated Press and Reuters to improve reliability of news and information on its platform. The news organisations may also help Twitter’s Curation team with the misinformation labels that appear on tweets that are allowed to remain visible on Twitter despite violating its rules.

Rejected: Meanwhile, Apple ejected, and Google threatened to throw out, an app called Unjected from their respective stores. Sometimes called the “Tinder for anti-vaxxers”, Unjected was started by two Hawaiian women and describes itself as a community for “like-minded people that support medical autonomy and free speech.”

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What Else Made The Signal? 

Internet frenzy: In rural India, data consumption in the past year has increased 400%, according to official information.

Join the game: Facebook will premiere its first-ever ticketed movie, “The Outsider” via Facebook Live event. The documentary will be released for $3.99 on August 19.

Educational growth: Ed-tech unicorn upGrad has acquired KnowledgeHut, a company that makes short upskilling and reskilling courses for professionals.

Just missed: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba posted a revenue of 205.7 billion yuan ($31.8 billion), missing analysts’ estimate of 209 billion yuan. Its net income was 45.1 billion yuan ($7 billion). 

Let’s go public: Two Indian startups, CarTrade and Udaan are eyeing initial public offerings. 

Lay-off: An estimated 3.2 million salaried people lost their jobs in July despite Covid-19 infections subsiding. Economists blamed it on structural weaknesses.

Getting festive: To meet demand during the festive season, firms in e-commerce, food-tech, logistics and retail are likely to hire up to 35% more gig workers.

Fun Signals

Big stars: NASA is all set to launch the world’s largest telescope –James Webb Space Telescope. It is expected to help image the first galaxies in the universe, analyse atmospheres of planets and stars, and perhaps make discoveries in our solar system.

Return of the caszh: Wall Street has a new dress code: casuals. The executives of the financial hub are trading suits and heels for chinos and flats.

Hola cerveza: There’s a corona pop-up vending machine in Las Vegas that only dispenses a drink if you order correctly in español.

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