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Ticketmaster pays $10 million criminal fine for invading rival’s computers

Ticketmaster LLC will pay a $10 million criminal fine to avoid prosecution on U.S. charges it repeatedly accessed the computer systems of a rival whose assets its parent Live Nation Entertainment Inc later purchased.

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ticketmaster LLC will pay a $10 million criminal fine to avoid prosecution on U.S. charges it repeatedly accessed the computer systems of a rival whose assets its parent Live Nation Entertainment Inc later purchased.

FILE PHOTO: Ticketmaster unveils its Facebook “Timeline App” at the Facebook launch event at 25 Lusk restaurant in San Francisco, California January 18, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The fine is part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement between Ticketmaster and the U.S. Department of Justice, which was disclosed at a Wednesday hearing before U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie in Brooklyn federal court.

Ticketmaster’s agreement resolves five criminal counts including wire fraud, conspiracy and computer intrusion.

It also requires the Beverly Hills, California-based company to maintain compliance and ethics procedures designed to detect and prevent computer-related theft.

Ticketmaster primarily sells and distributes tickets to concerts and other events.

Prosecutors said that from August 2013 to December 2015, Ticketmaster employees used stolen passwords to repeatedly access computers belonging to its rival to obtain confidential business information.

The rival, Songkick, specialized in artist presales, in which some tickets – often around 8% – are set aside for fans before general ticket sales begin, in part to foil scalpers.

Prosecutors said Ticketmaster was hoping to “choke off” the company and lure major clients away, and that one employee in the scheme was rewarded with a promotion and a raise.

Zeeshan Zaidi, a U.S.-Canadian citizen with degrees from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business school who once led Ticketmaster’s Artist Services division, pleaded guilty to a related charge in October 2019. He has yet to be sentenced.

Ticketmaster fired Zaidi and the other employee in October 2017. “Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values,” it said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”

In January 2018, Live Nation reached a $110 million settlement with Songkick to resolve an antitrust lawsuit Songkick had filed, and agreed to buy Songkick’s remaining technology assets and patent portfolio.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Jody Godoy; Editing by Chris Reese, Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-live-nation-ticketmaster-idUSKBN29420V

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Reuters

Fauci sees U.S. gaining control over pandemic by next autumn

The leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday he foresees America achieving enough collective COVID-19 immunity through vaccinations to regain “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021, despite early setbacks in the vaccine rollout.

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -The leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday he foresees America achieving enough collective COVID-19 immunity through vaccinations to regain “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021, despite early setbacks in the vaccine rollout.

Fauci made his remarks during an online discussion of the pandemic with California Governor Gavin Newsom, who announced at the outset that a more infectious coronavirus variant originally found in Britain has been detected in his state, a day after the first known U.S. case was documented in Colorado.

Newsom said the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 had been confirmed earlier in the day in a Southern California patient. He did not provide further details. But the California Department of Public Health said in statement later that the person, a San Diego County patient, has no known travel history, suggesting the variant is spreading within the community.

Fauci said he was “not surprised,” adding that additional cases of the variant would likely surface around the country and that the mutating nature of such viruses is normal.

“It appears that this particular mutation does make the virus better at transmitting from one person to another,” he said. However, individuals infected with earlier forms of SARS-CoV-2 “don’t seem to get re-infected by this,” meaning that any immunity already acquired “is protective against this particular strain,” Fauci added.

He also stressed that the so-called UK variant is believed to be no more severe in the illness it causes, and that newly approved COVID-19 vaccines will prove just as effective against it as against earlier known forms of the virus.

The same is believed to be true for a second new variant, also more infectious and first reported in South Africa, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Still, the emergence of a more highly transmissible variant could make a swift rollout of immunizations all the more critical.

President-elect Joe Biden warned on Tuesday it could take years to inoculate most Americans given an initial vaccine distribution rate that has lagged behind the promises of the Trump administration. He called on Congress to approve greater funding for the endeavor.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar before receiving his first dose of the new Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, U.S., December 22, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS

‘WE’RE GOING TO CATCH UP’

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday he was confident that early glitches in distribution of the vaccine will be overcome.

“As we get into January, the feeling is that we’re going to gain momentum to be able to catch up,” he told Newsom, saying he expected immunizations to become widely available to the general public on demand, by April.

Assuming that the broad vaccination campaign progresses as it should through May, June and July, “By the time we get to the early fall, we will have enough good herd immunity to be able to really get back to some strong semblance of normality – schools, theaters, sports events, restaurants,” Fauci said.

Nevertheless, the prospect of fighting a more contagious form of the virus comes as the pandemic has raged largely out of control across much of the United States for weeks. California, the most populous state with 40 million, has become the latest flashpoint, as hospitals in and around Los Angeles report intensive care units filled to capacity.

Medical experts attribute a worsening of the pandemic in recent weeks to the arrival of colder weather and the failure of many Americans to abide by public health warnings to avoid social gatherings and unnecessary travel over the year-end holiday season.

The result has been an alarming surge of infections and hospitalizations that have strained healthcare systems to their limits, and a steadily mounting U.S. death toll, surpassing 338,000 lives lost nationwide to date.

In addition to upending daily social life in America, the pandemic has stifled the economy, idling millions of workers at numbers not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The first U.S. case of the UK variant was announced by Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Tuesday. At a news conference on Wednesday, Polis described the patient infected as a National Guard soldier in his 20s who had been assigned to help deal with a COVID outbreak at a nursing home in Simla, Colorado, on the outskirts of the Denver metropolitan area.

The patient, isolating and recuperating at home, has no recent travel history, which Dr. Henry Walke, incident manager for the CDC’s COVID response, said is a sign of person-to-person transmission of the variant within the United States.

The director of Colorado’s Public Health and Environment Department told reporters that a second member of the National Guard may also have contracted the UK variant, though final laboratory confirmation was still being awaited.

The new variant has been detected in several European countries, as well as in Canada, Australia, India, South Korea and Japan, among others.

The U.S. government on Monday began requiring all airline passengers arriving from Britain – including U.S. citizens – to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

The government may expand coronavirus testing requirements for international air travelers beyond Britain as early as next week, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Keith Coffman in Denver and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/fauci-sees-us-gaining-control-over-pandemic-by-next-autumn-idUSKBN2942D3

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Ant weighs financial holding company to placate regulators, sources say

Ant Group Co Ltd is considering folding most of its online financial businesses, including consumer lending, into a holding company that would be regulated like traditional financial firms, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

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(Reuters) -Ant Group Co Ltd is considering folding most of its online financial businesses, including consumer lending, into a holding company that would be regulated like traditional financial firms, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: A thermal imaging camera is seen in front of a logo of Ant Group at the headquarters of Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China October 29, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The regulators, mainly the central bank, want Ant to fold its wealth management and insurance distribution businesses as well as minority-owned MYbank online lender into a financial holding company, one of the sources told Reuters.

It was not clear if Ant’s payments business Alipay, which was launched in 2004 and is second-biggest revenue generator for the group after consumer lending, would also come under the holding company structure.

Ant declined to comment.

Beijing is also seeking to potentially take a larger stake in billionaire Jack Ma’s businesses, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified Chinese officials and government advisers.

Alibaba Group and Ant did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the report, which provided no details on which of the businesses the government is eyeing.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, said in a statement to Reuters that Ant is drafting a plan to set up a financial holding firm, and that the company should ensure that all its financial operations are placed under regulatory supervision.

Ant controls a range of financial institutions, including securities and insurance firms, and should set up a holding firm according to law, the central bank said on Tuesday.

The proposed changes to the Chinese fintech giant’s businesses are yet not final and subject to revision, said the sources, who sought anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Chinese regulators abruptly halted Ant’s $37 billion initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which was set to be the world’s largest, last month.

Since then, regulators have set about reining in Ma’s financial and e-commerce empire after he publicly criticised China’s regulatory system in October for stifling innovation.

On Sunday, the central bank said it had asked Ant, whose businesses include payment processing, consumer lending and insurance products distribution, to shake up its lending and other consumer finance operations. [anL1N2J702J]

The move, if finalised, would slash the valuation of the revamped Ant, which was to be valued at $315 billion on market debut mainly due to its structure as a technology vendor to financial institutions rather than as a financial firm itself.

A spinoff from Alibaba, Ant in recent years presented itself as a technology company, which helped it to benefit from the far richer valuations the market affords to tech firms than to financial institutions.

Bloomberg News on Tuesday said Ant was planning to move into the holding company any unit that would require a financial licence, pending regulatory approval.

In September, the PBOC issued rules to regulate financial holding companies so as to avert systematic risks to China’s vast financial sector. These steps included a capital threshold for such licences.

One source said Ant’s financial holding firm should be regulated accordingly, but expected lots of discussion between Ant and regulators over which businesses would be placed into the holding firm.

In its IPO prospectus filed in August, Ant said it would use newly set up unit Zhejiang Finance Credit Network Technology Co to apply for a financial holding licence, without disclosing which of its financial businesses would be folded into that.

After years of largely hands-off treatment of domestic internet finance platforms, Beijing has adopted a slew of rules in recent months to sharpen oversight of the booming sector.

China’s banking and insurance regulator on Tuesday warned consumers to guard against borrowing spurred by internet finance platforms that hide the real costs of such debt.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Cheng Leng in Beijing; Additional reporting by Maria Ponnezhath and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Writing by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jason Neely

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/china-ant-group/update-4-ant-weighs-financial-holding-company-to-placate-regulators-sources-say-idUSL1N2J9051

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Reuters

U.S. to allow small drones to fly over people at night

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday said it is issuing long-awaited rules to allow for small drones to fly over people and at night, a significant step toward their use for widespread commercial deliveries.

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WASHINGTON, Dec 28 (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday said it is issuing long-awaited rules to allow for small drones to fly over people and at night, a significant step toward their use for widespread commercial deliveries.

The FAA is also requiring remote identification of most drones, which are formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to address security concerns.

“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in a statement. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

The race has been on for companies to create drone fleets to speed deliveries.

For at night operations, FAA said drone must be equipped with anti-collision lights. The final rules allow operations over moving vehicles in some circumstances.

Remote ID is required for all drones weighing 0.55 lbs or more, but is required for smaller drones under certain circumstances like flights over open-air assemblies.

One change in the final rule requires that those small drones cannot have any exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin. The final Remote ID rule eliminates the requirement that drones be connected to the internet to transmit location data; the final rule requires drones to broadcasts remote ID messages via radio frequency broadcast.

United Parcel Service Inc said in October 2019 that it won the government’s first full approval to operate a drone airline.

Last year, Alphabet’s Wing, a sister unit of search engine Google, was the first company to get U.S. air carrier certification for a single-pilot drone operation. In August, Amazon.com Inc’s drone service received federal approval allowing the retailer to begin testing commercial deliveries through its drone fleet.

The new rules will become effective 60 days after publication next month. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID, while drone operators have an additional year to begin using drones with Remote ID. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Source: https://de.reuters.com/article/usa-drones-faa/u-s-to-allow-small-drones-to-fly-over-people-at-night-idINL1N2J813C

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