Archive for Huileng Tan

A North Korean man who smuggled ‘Squid Game’ into the country is to be executed by firing squad, while a highschooler student who bought a USB drive with the show will be jailed for life, report says

Squid Game
North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok (Player 067) in Squid Game.
  • A North Korean high school student watched "Squid Game" with his best friend who shared it with others.
  • They were caught by censors after a tip-off, according to a report from Radio Free Asia.
  • One of them got off the hook thanks to rich parents who paid a $3,000 bribe, the outlet reported

North Korea is coming down hard on those who distribute or watch Netflix's hit show "Squid Game."

The reclusive country has sentenced a man who smuggled and sold the dystopian drama to death by firing squad, while a high-schooler who bought a drive containing the show received a life sentence, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA,) citing sources within the country.

Another six high-schoolers who watch the series have also been sentenced to five years of hard labor, reported the RFA. Their supervisors have also been punished, with teachers and school administrators fired. They may be banished to work in remote mines, the media outlet added.

The South Korean series tells the story of 456 debt-laden people competing for 45.6 billion won ($38.3 million) of prize money in brutal survival games.

"This all started last week when a high school student secretly bought a USB flash drive containing the South Korean drama Squid Game and watched it with one of his best friends in class," a law enforcement source in North Hamgyong province told RFA's Korean service. "The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them."

The students were caught by government censors after a tip-off, the source told RFA. It's the first time the North Korean government is punishing minors under a law that penalizes the distribution, watching, or keeping of media from capitalist countries like South Korea and the US, the RFA added.

"The government is taking this incident very seriously, saying that the students' education was being neglected," RFA's source said.

One of the students got off the hook thanks to rich parents who paid a $3,000 bribe, the outlet reported. 

Last month, a state-run North Korean propaganda website said the Netflix drama highlighted how South Korea is where "corruption and immoral scoundrels are commonplace." The show also featured a North Korean defector whose story highlighted her arduous escape from the north. 

Despite the threat of retribution, smuggled, illegal copies of "Squid Game" have been making their way into North Korea.

A previous article from Radio Free Asia noted that North Koreans found the financial struggles of the show's characters "relatable."

The massive hit is Netflix's most-watched show ever.

Read the original article on Business Insider

It’s not just sneakers anymore — the supply chain crisis is so bad that people are turning to bots to buy everything from electronics to toys

A woman packing at an Amazon logistics center in Germany.
An Amazon logistics center.
  • The supply chain crisis is driving some consumers to buy into shopping bots to snag coveted items.
  • Bots are software applications that scour shopping sites and expedite the checkout process.
  • Bots were already used by sneaker buyers to purchase and flip limited-edition shoes, but their use has broadened.

It's bad enough that the supply chain crisis is making holiday shopping harder and more expensive. Now, you have to compete with shopping bots, too.

Shopping bots are software applications that scour shopping sites, expedite the checkout process, and help resellers nab highly coveted items in seconds. They were already popular among sneaker buyers, but with the supply-chain crisis hitting the availability of everything from electronics to toys, bot use has become more and more popular with tech-savvy consumers.

"People will try to jump the line and leverage automation to grab anything that has a limited inventory," Patrick Sullivan, chief technology officer for security strategy at Akamai Technologies, a cybersecurity firm, told Bloomberg. "It used to be concert tickets, then purses and tennis shoes, and now it's vaccine reservations and even more mundane things," he said.

It costs good money to buy into bots: Craig Douglas, a 34-year-old electrical engineer, told the Wall Street Journal he pays $99 a month to subscribe to the Snailbot service, which crawls the Amazon and Walmart websites.

Bots can get pricey as they can be difficult to purchase, with bot makers releasing a limited number of copies at retail, Insider's Shoshy Ciment reported in September. Once those are sold out, bots often resell for thousands of dollars — up from a few hundred dollars at their release.

"As bots have successfully grabbed merchandise, some customers have taken an 'if you can't beat them, join them' approach, buying into bot services," said Forrester in a report this month. "This tactic helps to fund the bots' work and makes it ever more likely that bots will go after desirable merchandise, exacerbating the vicious cycle," the consultancy added.

Many retailers are using bot-management solutions to control the situation, but those that don't could be facing some angry customers.

"Humans buying the hot gaming console may also buy additional controllers and games — bots don't do that. Retailers that don't block the bots lose out … and those frustrated customers who didn't get their desired item go elsewhere and might not come back (ever)," Forrester wrote in its report.

But for desperate parents this holiday season, bots are a useful tool to snag prized gifts.

Douglas told the WSJ that by using his shopping bot, he managed to snag a PlayStation 5 and other toys that were sold out online and in stores near him last month.

"It's pretty much saved Christmas this year," he told the WSJ.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Evergrande is asking Hong Kong property agents to sell more apartments to get paid for the commissions they are owed for previous sales

Property advertisement for China Evergrande's Emerald Bay by in Hong Kong.
An advertisement for China Evergrande's Emerald Bay property development in Hong Kong.
  • With $300 billion in liabilities, Evergrande is the world's most indebted developer.
  • It's asking sales agents at a Hong Kong development to sell more flats before they can be paid commissions owed on previously sold units.
  • Agents who reject the plan may have to wait until April to be paid due to cashflow issues.

Debt-laden developer China Evergrande is asking property agents to sell more apartments at one of its projects in Hong Kong so that it can have the money to pay commission fees for units the salespeople have already sold, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday. 

Under the plan, sales agents will be paid the commissions owed to them for two apartments already sold only after they sell an additional unit of similar value at the Emerald Bay development, according to the SCMP, citing notes from a meeting. The offer applies to the first 30 apartments sold this month at the project, with the outstanding commissions paid 48 to 72 hours of the additional unit sale, the Hong Kong news outlet added. 

Agents who reject the plan may have to wait until April next year to be paid, as that's when a fund matures — although the salespeople will be paid only after "debt collection procedures," the developer said, per SCMP. Evergrande added it couldn't guarantee payment in April as well, SCMP reported. 

Construction on the 1,982-unit development was recently completed. According to a May report from Hong Kong property agency Midlands, around 77% of the units had already been sold.

Evergrande said the payment delay is due to the company's issues with cashflow, reported SCMP. Two Hong Kong property agencies have already sued the embattled real-estate developer over unpaid commissions, Reuters reported last month.

With $300 billion in liabilities, Evergrande is the world's most indebted developer. It has managed to pay off several overdue coupons just in time, averting a default that could send the rest of the sector — and possibly the rest of the world — into crisis. Evergrande founder Hui Ka Yan and the company itself are reportedly rushing to sell assets to raise funds to keep the company going.

Property agents are up in arms over Evergrande's new commission plan and at least one has said it will not accept it.

"The money that it owes me should always be paid. It cannot propose any new conditions to make me help it sell one extra unit for repaying," Shih Wing-ching, founder of Centaline — one of Hong Kong's largest real-estate agencies — told SCMP .

Evergrande did not immediately respond to an Insider request for comment. Centaline told Insider it has no comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Striking John Deere workers sign a new contract following a month-long strike

John Deere workers on strike in Davenport, Iowa.
John Deere workers on strike on October 15, 2021 in Davenport, Iowa.
  • Over 10,000 John Deere workers at 14 different locations went on strike last month after contract negotiations with the company failed.
  • They demanded better retirement benefits and work environments. 
  • On Wednesday, United Auto Workers members voted 61% to 39% in favor of a new agreement, ending a month-long strike. 

John Deere union workers have voted to approve a deal with the company on Wednesday, ending a five-week strike.

United Auto Workers members voted 61% to 39% in favor of the agreement with terms to increase pay and boost retirement benefits over six years, according to an announcement from the labor union. It was the third contract offer workers voted on.

The agreement includes an $8,500 signing bonus, 20% increase in wages over six years, and three 3% lump-sum payments.

Over 10,000 John Deere workers at 14 different locations went on strike last month after contract negotiations with the company failed. It was the company's first strike since 1986.

They were demanding better retirement benefits and work environments. 

​​​​"I'm very glad that our highly skilled employees are back to work building and supporting the industry-leading products that will make our customers more profitable and sustainable," said John May, Deere's chair and CEO in an announcement.

Operations are set to resume Wednesday night, the company added.

The strike at John Deere is part of a wave of work stoppages in the US where workers across various industries are demanding improved work conditions. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk sells another $930 million in Tesla shares as he continues his sale streak

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk has sold more than 934,000 shares in the company.
  • The sale comes as the Tesla CEO exercised options buy 2.1 million stocks at $6.24 each.
  • Musk is required to pay income taxes on the difference between the exercise price and fair market value of the shares.

Elon Musk has sold more than 934,000 Tesla shares worth $930 million, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings showed on Monday.

The sale comes as the Tesla CEO exercised options to buy 2.1 million stocks at $6.24 each, one of the filings showed. Musk is required to pay income taxes on the difference between the exercise price and fair market value of the shares, which closed at $1,013.39 on Monday.

It's the second time in less than two weeks that the billionaire has exercised his stock options. On November 8, Musk exercised options to acquire nearly 2.2 million shares, a regulatory filing shows.

Today's stock sale comes after Musk sold $6.9 billion worth of shares last week. Earlier this month, he also conducted a Twitter poll asking whether he should sell 10% of his stock to pay taxes, vowing to abide by the result, which turned out overwhelmingly positive.

Some of the billionaire's stocks sales today are part of a trading plan established in September, the SEC filings show.

Musk still has millions of stocks options he needs to exercise before their expiry next August.

Musk's Twitter survey and share sales come amid intense debates in the US over whether the wealthy are paying enough in taxes. The Tesla CEO is the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $279 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

On Sunday, Musk mocked Bernie Sanders on Twitter after the senator said the extremely rich should pay their "fair share" of taxes.

"Want me to sell more stock Bernie? Just say the word," Musk tweeted to Sanders in response. Tesla shares tanked as much as 5% on Monday.

Read the original article on Business Insider

More and more Chinese tech giants, including search-engine Baidu, are trademarking metaverse terms even as China continues to issue warnings about it

The Metaverse booth at a tech fair in China.
The Metaverse booth is pictured during the media day of Apsara Conference 2021 on October 18, 2021 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. The Apsara Conference 2021 of Alibaba Cloud will be held on October 19-22 in Hangzhou.
  • On October 29, a day after Facebook announced its name change, Chinese search-engine giant Baidu applied to trademark the term "metaapp."
  • Chinese gaming giant NetEase has also filed "dozens" of trademark applications related to the metaverse, per the SCMP.
  • Alibaba has also registered several trademarks, including "Ali Metaverse," related to the buzzword.

China's tech giants are acquiring metaverse-related trademarks as competition for the space heats up - even though the government has warned against the futuristic concept.

On October 29, one day after Facebook - which is banned in China - announced its name change to Meta, Chinese search-engine giant Baidu applied to trademark the term "metaapp." Baidu trademarked the term under the scientific instruments and design research categories, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP). Baidu declined comment to Insider.

Meanwhile, Chinese gaming giant NetEase has also filed "dozens" of trademark applications related to the metaverse, reported the SCMP, citing information from Chinese business registration tracking platform Qichacha. Trademarked terms in Chinese include "NetEase metaverse" and those related to its AI and gaming units, such as "Fuxi metaverse" and "Leihuo metaverse."

The applications span various categories including design research, communications services, and education and entertainment, reported the Hong Kong newspaper. NetEase did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Nasdaq-listed NetEase and Baidu are not the only ones jumping on the bandwagon. Tencent and ByteDance have both taken steps into the space. Ecommerce giant Alibaba, too, has registered several trademarks, including "Ali Metaverse," related to the buzzword.

The term "metaverse" refers to shared virtual spaces that people can access via the internet using VR and AR devices. The tech buzzword was thrust into the limelight when Facebook announced its name change to Meta to reflect its focus on the concept.

More than 400 companies in China have registered trademarks for terms related to the metaverse so far, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal's Chinese edition on Wednesday.

It's a race to the forefront of the space, which Bloomberg Intelligence estimates could be worth $800 billion by 2024.

Officially though, China may not be so enthusiastic about the metaverse. In an October research note, state-run think tank China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), which is affiliated with China's Ministry of State Security, warned of national security issues linked to the metaverse, reported the SCMP.

"There might be regulatory gaps in areas such as anti-money-laundering, sanctions, financial supervision, and intellectual property rights protection, and this will drive the international community to explore cooperation," CICIR wrote, per the SCMP.

Last month, state-owned media outlet also Security Times cautioned against investing in the concept, which is still in its infancy.

"Investment is not a virtual game," stated the report. "Blindly investing into such grand and illusionary concepts such as the metaverse may ultimately come back to hurt your pockets."

Read the original article on Business Insider

ByteDance’s billionaire co-founder Zhang Yiming steps down as chairman following company reshuffle: reports

  • ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming has relinquished his seat as chair of the company's board.
  • Zhang said he was stepping down as the CEO of ByteDance in May, as he's not an "ideal manager."
  • Zhang will still be involved in the company's long-term strategy, according to Bloomberg.

ByteDance co-founder Zhang Yiming has stepped down from his role as chairman of the board of the tech company, according to reports.

ByteDance is the parent company of TikTok, which earlier this week announced a significant company reshuffle. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew stepping down as ByteDance's CFO so he can focus on the short-form video platform full-time, Reuters reported yesterday.

New ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo will reportedly replace Zhang on the five-member board that includes investors Susquehanna International and Sequoia Capital China.

News of Zhang stepping down from ByteDance's board was first reported by the Chinese business news outlet Late Post last night.

Zhang will still be involved in the company's long-term strategy, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Zhang said he was stepping down from his role as CEO of ByteDance in May, saying he's not an "ideal manager."

The recent reorganization in ByteDance comes amid a wide-ranging crackdown the tech sector in China, which reportedly prompted the company to hold off on an offshore IPO.

ByteDance did not respond immediately to an Insider request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk says Tesla has not signed a contract with Hertz yet, despite news of the order for 100,000 cars pumping up shares and Musk’s fortune

Elon Musk Tesla bitcoin
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the electric vehicle company has not signed a contract with Hertz yet.
  • The car rental firm said last week it's buying 100,000 Tesla vehicles.
  • News of the order sent Tesla's shares soaring and made Musk the first person to be worth more than $300 billion.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Monday night that his electric-vehicle company has not signed a contact with Hertz yet - a week after the car rental company announced an order for 100,000 Teslas.

News of the order had sent Tesla stock soaring and made Musk the first person ever to be worth $300 billion. He is now three times richer than Warren Buffet.

Musk was replying to a tweet from the "Tesla Silicon Valley Club" account which showed a chart of rising Tesla share prices. "Thank you @elonmusk" the tweet added.

In response, Musk said he would like to "emphasize that no contract has been signed yet."

"Tesla has far more demand than production, therefore we will only sell cars to Hertz for the same margin as to consumers," Musk added. "Hertz deal has zero effect on our economics."

Musk said last week Tesla didn't give Hertz a discount on its order, and that the firm would pay consumer rates for the vehicles.

Shares of Tesla fell about 4% in early trading Tuesday following Musk's tweet.

Hertz and Tesla did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The boss of Barclays just quit amid an investigation into his ties with Jeffrey Epstein

Jes Staley
Barclays CEO Jes Staley.
  • Barclays said Monday that CEO Jes Staley is stepping down amid a probe into his ties with Jeffrey Epstein.
  • Barclays said Staley had on Friday seen "preliminary conclusions" from a regulatory probe.
  • Epstein was arrested in July 2019 and charged with child sex-trafficking. He hanged himself in jail a month later.

Barclays CEO Jes Staley is stepping down from the bank with immediate effect amid a regulatory probe into his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.

Barclays said in a statement Monday it was made aware of "preliminary conclusions" from the investigation, by UK financial regulators, on Friday evening.

"In view of those conclusions, and Mr Staley's intention to contest them, the Board and Mr Staley have agreed that he will step down from his role as Group Chief Executive and as a director of Barclays," Barclays said.

"It should be noted that the investigation makes no findings that Mr Staley saw, or was aware of, any of Mr Epstein's alleged crimes, which was the central question underpinning Barclays' support for Mr Staley following the arrest of Mr Epstein in the summer of 2019," the bank added.

CS Venkatakrishnan, head of global markets, will take over as Barclays CEO effective immediately.

Shares in Barclays fell by 3.4% in early trading in London on Monday.

Disgraced financier Epstein was arrested in July 2019 and charged with child sex-trafficking. He hanged himself in jail a month later.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Evergrande is not running out of money yet, says a bond expert who expects China’s government to ‘force collaborations’ between stakeholders

Evergrande
The logo of Evergrande Real Estate on a crane in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province
  • "Evergrande is too big for the Chinese government to ignore," said Warut Promboon, Bondcritic's credit research head.
  • Evergrande isn't out of money yet - the problem is moving liquidy around the company, said Warut.
  • Evergrande has $500 million in payments due by year-end - about 0.17% of its $300 billion debt pile.

Evergrande's debt crisis will be drawn out, but the fallout will likely be contained as the Chinese government "force collaborations" among stakeholders, said a credit expert who has been studying Evegrande bonds since 2011.

"Evergrande is too big for the Chinese government to ignore," wrote Warut Promboon, head of credit research at research firm Bondcritic in a note.

Real estate giant China Evergrande is now the world's most indebted company with a $300 billion debt pile. It has managed to pay off two overdue coupons just in time, averting a default that could send the rest of the sector - and possibly the rest of the world - into a massive crisis. The two payments totaled around $127.7 million, a tiny sliver of Evergrande's overall debt.

Despite Evergrande's debt woes, it's unlikely the firm is out of money, Warut told Insider last week. That's because a company as large as Evergrande will still have money in various locations including in subsidiaries. Instead, it's a question of how the corporate treasury can move the funds around.

"We believe the problem is how the company can move its liquidity around the organization to pay back debt," wrote Warut in the note published on the Smartkarma platform.

The credit crisis in the Chinese property sector is likely to be contained because the political system in China empowers regulators with "heavy hands which will force collaborations among issuers, investors, and intermediaries" who are often owned or influenced by the government itself, he said.

Chinese officials have sought to calm nerves about the debt crisis and have publicly chided Evergrande, telling it to resolve its debt problems and instructing the country's real estate developers to pay their overseas bondholders. Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that Beijing has also gone as far as telling Evergrande's billionaire founder, Hui Ka Yan, to use his own money to pay the company's debt.

China Evergrande still has $500 million in payments due by the end of this year - about 0.17% of its $300 billion debt pile.

Warut said the Chinese government would be closely monitoring Evergrande on its debt payments and its construction schedule. Assets sales, he added, including project sales to other developers, are likely going ahead, with the transactions administered or brokered by Chinese regulators.

The entire process could take years, Warut said, citing the example of embattled Chinese conglomerate HNA, whose trouble began in 2017. It started selling off its assets, and the now-bankrupt company is in the midst of a restructuring push.

Evergrande will likely go the way of HNA, eventually resulting in "a smaller Evergrande" Warut said.

Read the original article on Business Insider