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SoftBank’s Arm sale hits a snag as UK opposition party warns of risks

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The U.K.’s opposition Labour party said this week that an Arm takeover is not in the public interest and criticized the ruling Conservative Party for failing to protect the British chip designer — often hailed as one of the nation’s most innovative firms — from overseas predators.

Arm’s chips are used by companies around the globe to power millions of electrical devices. Apple uses them in iPhones and iPads, while Amazon uses them in Kindles, and car manufacturers use them in vehicles. The company has 6,000 staff globally and 3,000 of those are in the U.K.

Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, warned that an Arm takeover by a Silicon Valley firm would ultimately lead to U.K. jobs moving overseas.

A government spokesperson said that Downing Street monitors proposed acquisitions closely. “Where we feel a takeover may represent a threat to the UK, the government will not hesitate to investigate the matter further, which could lead to conditions on the deal,” they said. 

Rumors have been swirling that U.S. chipmaker Nvidia is edging closer to buying Arm from current owner, SoftBank, which has allowed Arm to carry on independently since it acquired the firm in 2016 for £24 billion ($31 billion). SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son confirmed in August that his company is considering selling or listing Arm.

Arm declined to comment and Nvidia did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. 

“Arm is a major British success story, but the government is doing nothing in the face of the risk of the company being swallowed up by Nvidia,” Miliband said in a statement shared with CNBC.

“If the government truly believes in an active industrial policy, it cannot be right that they are ignoring the potential consequences of this takeover – including the possible implications for where the company is headquartered and the thousands of jobs in Britain that depend on it.”

Miliband also warned about the risks of putting too much power in one company’s hands.

“We also know the tendency of dominance is a particular problem in the tech sector, and government must be much more vigilant about the risks of this,” he said. “The government should show leadership and seek legally binding assurances from Nvidia should it take over the company to keep Arm headquartered in the UK rather than see jobs and decision-making moved across the ocean — the same assurances that were made when Arm was taken over by Softbank in 2016.”

Miliband’s warning comes after several other British tech companies were acquired by larger companies overseas. One of the most notable examples in recent years is London artificial intelligence lab DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2016 for around $600 million. Today, DeepMind is widely regarded as one of world leaders in AI research.

The Labour party said there is a “worrying pattern of key British businesses in the vital technology sector being taken over by overseas interests.”

Enterprise Act

Dominic Cummings, the chief advisor to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, emailed civil servants this week to confirm he is looking at ways to build $1 trillion U.K. tech firms, according to Business Insider.

Referring to DeepMind, Cummings wrote on his blog last March that the U.K. had a “valuable asset and let Google buy it for trivial money without the powers-that-be in Whitehall understanding its significance.” 

Elsewhere, U.K. network intelligence firm Imagination Technologies was taken over by China-owned investment firm Canyon Bridge in a £550 million deal in 2017. Nvidia itself bought the Bristol-headquartered Icera for $367 million in 2011 and subsequently sacked more than 300 staff in the U.K. in 2015.

Last month, The Evening Standard newspaper reported the deal between Nvidia and Arm was on course to be completed by the end of summer and that sources were valuing Arm at up to £40 billion.

The Labour party said the government should act when acquisitions can result in national assets being “stripped for parts” or shipped overseas. It said the government could do this by expanding the Enterprise Act to include a public interest test where a deal could implicate the U.K.’s industrial strategy.

Last month, Arm co-founder Hermann Hauser said an Arm sale to Nvidia would be a “disaster,” pointing out that Arm’s business model means it can currently sell to everybody.

“The one saving grace about Softbank was that it wasn’t a chip company, and retained Arm’s neutrality,” he told the BBC. “If it becomes part of Nvidia, most of the licensees are competitors of Nvidia, and will of course then look for an alternative to Arm.”

The Labour party said that if Arm is acquired by Nvidia, it would then be subject to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States regulations. That means President Donald Trump could choose which companies Arm can sell to outside the U.S.

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Alice Fraser: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Culture

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When I was told to write one of these 10 funniest things on the internet columns my first thought was, “Oh no, the internet isn’t for remembering things.” My second thought was, “Oh no, I don’t know what’s funny.” And my third thought was, “They’re really letting anyone do one of these.” Does it count if it’s on the internet but was originally on something else? Because that’s a lot of things. So it’s always good to start with an existential lack of confidence in the fundamental structures of the game.

Most of my memories of laughing at the internet come from when I was about 15 – a period when the internet was on a big clumpy desktop in our living room, when I was cackling with my twin brother over things that almost certainly don’t hold up today, and which I can’t bear to go back to in case they don’t. One was a website that had little animations of a dinosaur that was critical of capitalism, which I’ve found impossible to google. There was also a deeply worried existential bat character that I screenshot to use as my avatar on my teenage LiveJournal.

Anyway, this list is as much “10 things I can remember from the internet” as anything else.

1. “How is prangent formed?”

This is just a man reading different questions from people about pregnancy where they’ve misspelled the word “pregnant”. For a list of queries, a high proportion of which were probably written amid deep human emotion, and that might be characterised as punching down, this builds a level of absurdity that I find irresistible.

How IS prangent formed?

“PREGANANANT” just hits the sweet spot for me.

2. Robert Pattinson’s hand-held pasta invention

Zach Baron’s GQ interview with Robert Pattinson is beautifully written, and the description about three-quarters of the way through of Pattinson’s attempt to cook his own recipe is gorgeous. It escalates into absurdity and, as Baron acknowledges, he’s not sure if Pattinson is doing a bit, being earnestly incompetent, completely unhinging from reality, or a bit of each. The best way to enjoy this is to read it out loud to a friend.

3. Laura Davis: Gobby or Shark

It’s no secret that I love Laura Davis. She’s glorious, and her deeply under-appreciated comedy chops are undeniable. Gobby or Shark is a clip of standup that’s a great example of her combination of brutality and wistfulness.

What would you choose?

I’d recommend getting onboard with all her work, including her latest album, The Bus Show, which was recorded in a cupboard during lockdown and is one of the most successful versions of comedy-without-an-audience I’ve experienced.

4. Fresh Avocado

Why do I find people finding things funny so funny?

Free – what?

One of the things I can’t resist is other people laughing at stuff. It brings me joy and may well be one of the reasons I love doing comedy.

5. The Toast’s Two Mediaeval Monks Inventing Things series

The Toast was consistently brilliant and I’m sad it’s shut down, but I regularly go back to the Two Monks series when I’m miserable and it always makes me laugh. It’s hard to choose just one but here you go.

Daniel Lavery is one of my favourite internet writers, sliding effortlessly between the beauty of linguistic stylings that can be understood as a sort of stylistic historical fanfiction and an extremely modern internet sensibility. His book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You, is surreal and incisive.

6. Isaac by Jonny and the Baptists

A little song about Bible stories. It’s sweet, heartbreaking, gorgeously musical, political, deeply human and very funny, which is a lot to fit into 3:07.

‘I’m sitting on the top of a mountain…’

In fact, the whole album is beautiful, and my favourite song on it isn’t comedy at all. I saw the show Love you, Hate Bastards in Edinburgh last year and it made me laugh and then cry hysterically, which is maybe not comedy, but is my favourite kind of comedy. I thought it was quite funny in retrospect that it had made me cry so much, so made a friend play the album in the car on a long drive, and was telling her when the sad song came up that it was the one that made me cry, and then I cried hysterically again in her car, to everyone’s great embarrassment.

7. Baby trashes bar in Las Palmas

This is a gorgeous short film, beautifully shot by the puppeteer Johannes Nyholm, predicated on the old premise that toddlers are tiny drunks or destructive Vikings. It’s way too much effort for a very simple joke; it’s weirdly melancholy, surprisingly provocative, existentially dumb and it makes me laugh.

How many beers is that?

There are a million videos of my two year old niece on our family WhatsApp finding normal things hilarious that are funnier than anything and I would include them here were it not a breach of her tiny dignity. That said, other people’s families are way less worried about baby privacy and this is a good example of the genre.

8. Chappelle’s Show: True Hollywood Stories – Rick James part two

These stories from Charlie Murphy of his Hollywood experiences are related hilariously by Murphy, re-enacted hilariously by Dave Chappelle, but the actual commentary from Rick James makes this a top-notch piece of comedy.

It
was a nice couch.

9. Kate McKinnon as Cecilia Gimenez

Kate McKinnon is always funny and these sketches are funny, sad and funny.

Fixed it.

10. This tweet from Rebecca Shaw

I love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I love Bec Shaw, I have mixed feelings about puns. This is a rollercoaster for me, every time, and Bec’s commitment to enjoying it gives me hope.

Bec Shaw
(@Brocklesnitch)

here’s a picture of me scaling a rock face pic.twitter.com/lxd2LSBGeC


April 16, 2015

Follow Alice Fraser on Twitter and catch her, along with the comedian Fady Kassab, for Humour Us as part of the Sydney Opera House’s digital season on Friday 30 October at 8pm



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Amazon launches first Nordic online store in Sweden

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Alex Wong | Getty Images

LONDON — Amazon announced Wednesday that it has launched its first Nordic online store in Sweden as the e-commerce giant looks to expand further across the European continent. 

Citizens in Sweden will now be able to order products through Amazon.se instead of having to make purchases via Amazon stores in other European countries including the British store (Amazon.co.uk) or the German store (Amazon.de), where they were shown a limited selection of products and incurred high delivery fees.

Amazon Vice President for European Expansion, Alex Ootes, said in a statement that Amazon.se will feature over 150 million products including tens of thousands from Swedish businesses.

“We will continue to work hard to earn the trust of Swedish customers by growing our product range, ensuring low prices, and providing a convenient and trusted shopping experience,” said Ootes.

In a bid to get as many of Sweden’s 10 million sparsely populated inhabitants as possible using Amazon.se, which was confirmed in August, Amazon is offering free delivery on orders over 229 Swedish krona ($25).

The launch got off to a bit of a bad start. Amazon used the Argentinian flag instead of the Swedish flag in the “choose your location” section and a frying pan was listed as a woman’s item.

Amazon was also criticized for wrongly translating some product descriptions. A children’s puzzle containing yellow rapeseed flowers, for example, was described as having a “sexual assault flower motif,” while a cat-themed hairbrush was described with the Swedish slang word for “vagina.”

“Many products on Amazon Sweden came from auto-translated listings on other Amazon marketplaces, which enabled it to have a deep catalog on day one, but has unfortunately resulted in many wrong, sometimes comical, and even offensive Swedish translations,” wrote Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of e-commerece intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse.

In response, Amazon issued a statement saying: “We want to thank everyone for highlighting these issues and helping us make the changes and improve Amazon.se. Whilst we are really excited to have launched Amazon.se today with more than 150 million products, it is only day one for us here in Sweden and we are committed to constantly improving the customer experience.”

The statement continued: “Therefore, if anyone spots any issues with product pages, please do use the link on the page to provide feedback and we will make the necessary changes.”

While Amazon.se provides local retailers with a new platform through which to sell their goods and a convenient shopping platform for customers, some Swedes are concerned that Amazon doesn’t treat employees fairly and that it could threaten other local firms.

One Twitter user wrote: “So Amazon opened in Sweden today. All I say is, why? I see no reason why I would order anything from Amazon when we already have Scandinavian companies that provide better services, better prices and faster shipping.”

Sweden is the 17th country where Amazon has set up an online store. In Europe, Amazon has set up online stores in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and The Netherlands, where it launched just six months ago.


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Facebook, Google and Twitter CEOs to testify in Senate on Section 230

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The CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter return (virtually) to Congress today to defend their legal liability shield to lawmakers keen to weaken it.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

The executives will face lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee. Members unanimously supported the hearing after its scope was expanded to include discussions of digital privacy and tech’s impact on local media. Republicans and Democrats on the committee remain divided over how to tackle these issues, but their shared concern leaves an open path for reform to come down the road.

“There is more common ground than people realize,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told CNBC Tuesday of Republicans’ and Democrats’ approach to reforming the legal shield known as Section 230. He said there could be more “opportunity for bipartisan consensus” after the election.

Section 230 protects tech platforms from liability for their users’ posts but also allows them to moderate content they consider “objectionable.” Republicans have complained that the legal shield allows tech companies to get away with removing messages they disagree with, particularly those from conservatives. Tech companies have repeatedly denied claims that their moderation practices are based in biased policies or algorithms.

Democrats, on the other hand, fear that tech platforms have not done enough to police their platforms and that Section 230 allows them to get away with not taking appropriate action. Blumenthal said he’s particularly concerned about disinformation on the platforms that could discourage potential voters from turning out or mislead voters about the election outcome.

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Section 230 “frankly is probably ripe for reform.”

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey.

Getty Images | CNBC

In their written testimonies, the CEOs warn of the potential negative impacts of repealing key portions of Section 230. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote that it would impose the greatest harm on small businesses that can’t keep up with legal fees. Google’s Sundar Pichai wrote that the statute has been “foundational to US leadership in the tech sector.”

The hearing will also be a chance to see where lawmakers stand on a national privacy law, which similarly has widespread support but has been held up by disagreements over two details of how it should be enforced. Democrats have advocated for a bill that would allow states to add extra protections for their constituents and give consumers the right to sue companies they believe violate their digital privacy rights.

Republicans want a uniform national privacy law that will preempt state laws are opposed to so-called private rights of action. They fear a patchwork of state laws and petty lawsuits that bog down smaller companies.

Blumenthal said he thinks it could be possible to “modify” those details to reach a middle ground if a national law provides strong protections for consumers.

For Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Pichai, this is their second time testifying before Congress this year after the House’s antitrust hearing in July. Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Dorsey are also set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next month about their handling of the New York Post’s unverified story about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

-CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.

WATCH: How the internet is regulated


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