'Full-Blown Merger'

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The World

Attacking anti-vaccine movement, President Biden mandates widespread COVID shots, tests: Biden announced policies requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and pushing large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly. The new measures, which Biden laid out in remarks from the White House, would apply to about two-thirds of all U.S. employees, those who work for businesses with more than 100 workers. Biden adopted a newly antagonistic tone toward the unvaccinated, underlining his shift from cajoling to coercion as he placed blame on those still refusing to get shots for harming other Americans. "We've been patient," Biden told the tens of millions of Americans who have declined to get coronavirus shots. "But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us." (Reuters, Washington Post)

Russia and Belarus inch closer to a full-blown merger: Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko agreed to coordinate the countries’ macroeconomic policies, institute common tax and customs measures, and harmonise other financial controls as part of a 28-point roadmap that is expected to increase Russia’s influence over its neighbor. The countries will move to integrate their energy markets while maintaining steeply discounted supplies of natural gas to Belarus, and Russia will provide a further $630m in loans to the cash-strapped Belarusian government. (New York Times, The Guardian)

Afghanistan’s population of 38 million people risks being plunged into near-universal poverty faced with a “catastrophic deterioration” of the country’s heavily aid-dependent economy, according to a warning issued by the United Nations Development Programme. The study suggests a worst-case scenario where as many as 97% of Afghans would sink below the poverty line by next year – a staggering increase of 25%. (The Guardian)

China leader Xi Jinping and President Biden spoke on a phone call to ‘manage competition’ between China, US. According to the White House, the two leaders had a ‘broad, strategic discussion,’ as Biden made clear the conversation was part of Washington’s efforts to ‘responsibly manage’ their competition. (South China Morning Post)

  • Chinese fans dedicated to Park Ji-min, one of the seven members of Korean boy band BTS, are among the latest victims of president Xi Jinping’s campaign to clean up China’s youth culture. Jimin’s unofficial Chinese fan site was suspended for two months after a crowdfunding campaign raised enough money to emblazon a commercial airplane with the star’s image. The clampdown by censors comes as Chinese authorities have embarked on a mission to tackle the “chaos” posed by fandom, an attack on the millions of devout followers of Asian celebrities who congregate in informal hordes online. (Financial Times)

Tory support has fallen to its lowest level since the election after Boris Johnson’s gamble to raise taxes for the NHS and social care reform, a Times poll reveals. Backing for the Conservatives is down five points to 33% after the government announced plans to increase national insurance. The poll puts Labour in the lead, at 35%, for the first time since January at the height of the pandemic. (The Times)

Microsoft is shelving plans to fully reopen its U.S. offices next month. It had planned to reopen its headquarters on Oct. 4, but the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19 and the spike in cases forced the company to delay. Microsoft isn’t providing a new date to employees, though. (The Verge)

  • Delta Air Line’s $200 surcharge for unvaccinated workers led to more vaccinations. Nearly 20% of the remaining 20,000 previously unvaccinated workers without shots have now started the vaccination process. (MarketWatch)

  • Airborne viruses recycled through a low-grade ventilation system likely created Germany’s first super-spreader event of the Covid-19 pandemic, a CSI-style analysis of a carnival celebration has found. (The Guardian)

  • The healthcare industry is pushing for more time before the surprise billing ban is enforced. Payers and hospitals say with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and key elements still unreleased, it will be difficult to comply by Jan. 1. (Healthcare Dive)

As the NFL season kicks off, typical NFL game attendees largely prefer vaccine requirements for fans. 54% of those who typically attend at least one game per season said they’d be more interested in going this season if all fans were required to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Only 19% of regular attendees said a vaccine requirement would make them less interested in going to a game, while 27% said it wouldn’t impact their interest at all. (Morning Consult)


DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Technologies’ Eats division are suing New York City over its law permanently capping the amount of commissions the apps can charge restaurants to use their services, the latest move in a growing clash between the platforms and local regulators. The limit on fees has cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars combined through July, they said in the suit. (Wall Street Journal)

JPMorgan Chase has reached a deal to acquire the Infatuation, which owns websites and apps that guide diners to eat like locals in cities around the world. The company also hosts a biannual food festival, Eeeeeatscon, where restaurants serve food in a stadium while musicians and speakers entertain attendees. Banks don’t usually buy media companies. But JPMorgan has made a push to attract big spenders who like to travel and dine out, particularly through credit-card rewards. (Wall Street Journal)

Amazon will offer to pay 100% of college tuition for its 750,000 U.S. hourly employees. The e-commerce giant is following the lead of other large U.S. companies that are dangling perks such as education benefits or more pay to woo workers in a tight job market. Starting in January, Amazon said, it will cover the cost of college tuition, fees and textbooks for hourly employees in its operations network after 90 days of employment. It will also begin covering high school diploma programs, GEDs and English as a second language certifications for employees. (CNBC)

Big investors are charging into startups touting experimental new battery technologies that would make it possible for renewable energy sources to produce most of the country’s electricity. Deep-pocketed investment firms in recent months have plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into the companies, which make what are called long-duration batteries. Unlike mobile-phone or electric-car batteries that can deliver electricity for about four hours straight, long-duration batteries can discharge for longer periods, ranging from six hours to several days, and store far more power. That allows them to overcome the major drawback of renewable energy: The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. The batteries can release electricity into the power grid when customers need it, cutting dependence on fossil fuels. They can also be used as backup power sources after storms. (Wall Street Journal)


After years of working with third-party brands, Amazon is switching up its smart TV playbook: The company will begin selling two lines of Amazon-branded Fire TVs to U.S. consumers next month, including a new Fire TV Omni series that comes with integrated far-field voice control for easy access to Alexa. (Protocol)

The first pair of smart glasses made by Facebook and Ray-Ban went on sale for $299. They’re called Ray-Ban Stories, and you’ll be able to find them pretty much anywhere Ray-Bans are sold, including LensCrafters and Sunglasses Hut stores. The frames feature two-front facing cameras for capturing video and photos. They sync with a companion camera roll app called Facebook View, where clips can be edited and shared to other apps on your phone (not just Facebook’s own). There’s a physical button on the glasses for recording, or you can say “Hey Facebook, take a video” to control them hands-free. And, perhaps most importantly, they look and feel like regular glasses. (The Verge)

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls Ray-Ban Stories “one milestone on the path to what we envision is the long-term augmented reality glasses.” He adds that “there’s a bunch of work that still needs to be done there, but while we’re working on that long-term vision, I think it’s also helpful to kind of work our way up and say ‘What’s possible and what can we unlock for people today?’ And that’s what this product ends up being.” (Fast Company)

CNBC signed a new multi-platform deal with Jim Cramer, which includes daily written and video content and a new subscription product, CNBC Investor Club with Jim Cramer. (Adweek)

Study: Social media users are more likely to be influenced by others’ posts when the posts violate, rather than support, their cultural values. (Stanford University)

Book Excerpt: What it was like inside Microsoft during the worst cyberattack in history. Microsoft president Brad Smith describes the chaos inside the tech giant during the SolarWinds hack. The attack quickly became the broadest confirmed penetration of U.S. government and tech sector computer networks. While cybersecurity experts would give the attack a variety of names, including Solorigate and Sunburst, the public would mostly read about it with reference to the Texas company whose software was hijacked to stage the initial attacks—SolarWinds. But what to make of all this? Was it, as some on Capitol Hill suggested, a Russian “act of war” or a “digital Pearl Harbor”? Or was it just “espionage as usual,” as some in the intelligence community countered. In my view, it was neither. (Fast Company)

Smart Links

Fortune’s 40 Under 40, from bitcoin to the pandemic. (Fortune)

Japan's chip industry squeezed as foreign governments boost investment. (Nikkei Asian Review)

Arizona divesting all state funds from Ben & Jerry’s due to settlement boycott. (Times of Israel)

Groups launch coordinated effort to get Congress to repeal SALT cap. (Axios)

Big 12 presidents set to vote on adding 4 schools. (WGN Radio)

Edtech leans into the creator economy with cohort-based classes. (TechCrunch)