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Fauci says US Omicron wave could peak by end-January, as it ‘turned around very quickly’ in South Africa

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci gives an update on the Omicron COVID-19 variant during the daily press briefing at the White House on December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US could peak in a couple of weeks.
  • Omicron has become the most common coronavirus variant in the US.
  • Anthony Fauci said the US Omicron COVID-19 wave is likely to peak by the end of January.
  • He said it's possible the Omicron could accelerate the end of the pandemic, but there's "no guarantee."

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US could peak by the end of next month.

"It certainly peaked pretty quickly in South Africa," Fauci told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Wednesday, referring to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which was first reported in the country at the end of November. "It went up almost vertically and turned around very quickly," he said.

The Omicron variant has become the most common coronavirus variant in the US.

Considering the size of the US and the country's levels of vaccination, the peak "likely will be more than a couple of weeks, probably by the end of January, I would think," Fauci told CNBC.

A recent University of Texas report estimated that US Omicron cases could peak between January 18 and February 3, while daily COVID-19 cases could bottom out in March — even as Omicron remained widespread.

Regarding a theory that the Omicron variant could accelerate the end of the pandemic, Fauci told CNBC that while the scenario is possible, there's "no guarantee" it would happen.

"But if you have a very transmissible virus that replaces another virus, and that virus has less of a degree of severity, that would be a positive outcome," he said.

A small study by scientists in South Africa published on Tuesday suggests that people infected with the Omicron variant could have better immunity against the Delta variant and that Omicron could displace Delta and become the prevalent coronavirus variant eventually.

However, "this virus has fooled us before. Remember, we thought with the vaccines everything was going to be fine. And along came Delta, which threw a monkey wrench into everything," Fauci told CNBC. 

So "there's no guarantee that that would mean the end of a serious outbreak," he told CNBC.

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A DoorDash employee making $400K a year complained about a company-wide initiative requiring that he personally make one delivery a month

A DoorDash rider with his bike and delivery pack on his back exiting a NYC restaurant in winter.
DoorDash is making all its employees — even the CEO — work as delivery drivers at least once a month.
  • DoorDash is reinstating its WeDash program.
  • The program requires all staff — including corporate team members — to work as delivery drivers at least once a month.
  • One employee claiming to make $400K a year vented about having to take part in the program on social media.  

Delivery service DoorDash is making all its employees — even the CEO — deliver at least once a month, but not everyone is happy about the initiative, and some employees have turned to an anonymous employee social platform to vent. 

Under its WeDash program, employees — including those in DoorDash's corporate offices — must serve as delivery drivers at least once a month. If they cannot deliver, they can choose other experiences like shadowing customer service staff.

WeDash is the company's flagship employee engagement program, which aims to have workers "learn first-hand how the technology products we build empower local economies, which in turn helps us build a better product," according to a DoorDash spokesperson.

One DoorDash employee who reported a total annual compensation of $400,000, complained about the DoorDash initiative on the anonymous employee social platform Blind in a post titled: "Doordash making engineers deliver food."

"Mandatory 'WeDash' starts from next year. You need to dash once a month. WILL BE TRACKED IN PERFORMANCE REVIEWS!! What the actual fuck? I didn't sign up for this, there was nothing in the offer letter/job description about this," the post said. 

The post has generated over 1,600 comments since December 19. Blind did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment but a spokesperson told MarketWatch the original post was confirmed to be from a DoorDash employee as the platform requires users to sign up using their work email addresses before they can post. 

"Not acceptable in any way!" a Blind user who works at eBay commented.

"And most of us would wave bye bye 👋 👋" wrote another DoorDash employee.

But some DoorDash employees came to the program's defense. 

"Most of my coworkers and I are excited. DD pays well and I get to better understand what I'm working on, and hopefully improve the experience for our dashers. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯," a DoorDash user posted on Blind.

Another DoorDash employee said he didn't think the task was as big a deal as the original poster, but "this should have been placed in the job description of people's employment contracts."

"Seriously? They're paying you 400K and want you to deliver food once a month so you can actually experience your product and you're complaining? What's wrong with you?" posted a user who works at DocuSign.

A DoorDash spokesperson told Insider that the WeDash programme has been around since the company's inception, but was paused during the pandemic. It's now being reinstated.

"The sentiment of the employee on Blind is not a reflection of the employee base at large," the spokesperson added.

 

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Apple employees plan to walk off their jobs on Christmas Eve, urge customers to not buy anything amid the last-minute shopping rush

  • A group of Apple employees is planning a workout on Christmas Eve, demanding better work conditions.
  • Most Apple stores in the US are open till 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and closed on Christmas Day.
  • Their demands include a more respectful workplace and paid sick time.

A group of Apple employees is planning to walk off their jobs on Christmas Eve and are urging a customer boycott on the day — when much last-minute shopping takes place.

The worker advocacy group Apple Together called for a walkout on Twitter. Their demands include a more respectful workplace and paid sick time.

 

It also urged customers to "demand that Apple upholds its image with your wallet. Don't shop in stores. Don't shop online."

According to information on its website, most Apple stores in the US are open until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and closed on Christmas Day.

The Apple Together tweet also informed workers who walk off that they can apply for strike funds via the Coworker Solidarity Fund, a nonprofit. According to the fund's webpage, it's now accepting only waitlist applications for stipends of up to $5,000.

The tech sector faces increased employee activism around toxic work conditions and environments.

In June, about 80 Apple employees pushed back after the company announced its return-to-office policy would require them back in the workplace by September, The Verge reported. The company last week pushed back its return-to-office indefinitely due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

And in August, a group of Apple employees launched a website for coworkers to share their experiences of mistreatment at the tech giant. 

Apple didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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2 cities in China have repossessed land owned by Evergrande amid scrutiny over assets of the debt-laden developer

A view of the Evergrande Center, which hosts the regional HQ of Evergrande Group, in Shanghai, China Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Evergrande's assets are under scrutiny amid its debt crisis.
  • The land planning authority in the city of Chengdu said that it has taken over two plots of idle land from Evergrande.
  • This follows a similar move by Haikou city earlier.
  • The Chinese government can take back land if it has been sitting idle for more than two years.

Two cities in China have repossessed land from cash-strapped real estate developer Evergrande.

Last Friday, the land planning authority of the southwest city of Chengdu announced it had taken over two plots of land that had been sitting idle for over a decade. According to the notices, the two plots total over 340,000 sq. meters (31,587 sq. ft.).

According to a government notice published last Monday, Haikou city, located in Hainan province in southern China, took back eight plots of land from Evergrande for similar reasons.

Under Chinese law, the government can take back land that has been sitting idle for two years without having to compensate the property owner.

This latest move comes as China's government stepped in to oversee Evergrande's debt crisis. The company announced earlier this month that there was "no guarantee" it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments. Authorities have started auditing the assets of Evergrande and its billionaire founder, Hui Ka Yan, Reuters reported last week.

Shenzhen-headquartered Evergrande is the world's most indebted property developer, with $300 billion in liabilities. Investors fear its collapse could have a domino effect on China's economy — possibly sending the rest of the world into a financial crisis.

The Chinese government has signaled there will be no outright bailout for Evergrande. However, authorities have asked government-owned firms and state-backed property developers to buy some of Evergrande's assets, Reuters reported in September.

Guangzhou city authorities have also taken over Evergrande's soccer stadium and plan to sell it, as construction has come to a stop, Reuters reported last month, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Evergrande has divested some businesses to raise cash, including Chinese streaming platform HengTen and Dutch electric motor maker e-Traction.

S&P Global and Fitch Ratings recently said they consider the property giant to be in default.

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Elon Musk says he’ll pay more taxes this year than any American in history — he may be right

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, stands at a press event on the grounds of the Tesla Gigafactory.
Elon Musk said he will "pay more taxes than any American in history this year."
  • Elon Musk said he will "pay more taxes than any American in history this year" on Twitter on Wednesday.
  • He was responding to Sen. Elizabeth Warren's tweet that he's "freeloading off everyone else."
  • The Tesla CEO has to pay taxes on a large amount of stock options he's exercised this year.

Elon Musk could well be shelling out one of the largest tax bills in history this year.

That's because the Tesla CEO has been exercising a large number of options this year — and still has more to go.

Taxes on the options could exceed $10 billion for this year if he exercises all his Tesla share options expiring in 2022, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Musk had made the claim that he will "pay more taxes than any American in history this year" in response to Elizabeth Warren's tweet that he was "freeloading off everyone else." This response came after he insulted the senator earlier in the same thread.

Musk has been exercising a large number of options this year. 

He has exercised almost 15 million of the 22.9 million Tesla stock options he was granted in 2012, and still has 7.9 million left to go before they expire in August 2022. He must pay tax on the difference between the exercise price and fair market value of the shares, and has sold large chunks of Tesla shares to meet the tax obligation.

Because the Internal Revenue Service does not publicly disclose tax information of individuals, it's difficult to know if Musk is indeed paying the largest tax bill in history.  

Even if Musk paid $10 billion in taxes, it would just be a small part of his wealth. The Space X founder currently tops the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $255 billion.

A ProPublica investigation published in June found that the billionaire paid $455 million in taxes from 2014 to 2018 even though his wealth grew by $13.9 billion.

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Chinese authorities are auditing the assets of Evergrande and its billionaire boss to determine if it needs a bailout: Reuters

Evergrande founder and chairman Hui Ka Yan
Chinese authorities are auditing the assets of China Evergrande and its founder, Hui Ka Yan.
  • Chinese authorities are trying to determine the value of Evergrande assets, Reuters reported.
  • Authorities are trying to decide if Evergrande would require a bailout involving state-owned entities.
  • The Chinese government has stepped in to manage Evegrande's debt crisis.

Chinese authorities are auditing the assets of embattled real estate developer China Evergrande and its billionaire founder, Hui Ka Yan, Reuters reported.

The audit aims to determine the value of the assets and uncover any hidden assets, according to Reuters, citing two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.  The exercise will also enable authorities to decide if Evergrande would require a bailout that involves state-owned entities, they told Reuters.

China's government has stepped in to oversee Evergrande's debt crisis after the real estate giant announced earlier this month that there was "no guarantee" it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments. 

Shenzhen-headquartered Evergrande is the world's most indebted property developer, with $300 billion in liabilities. Investors are scrutinizing its every move as they fear its collapse could have a domino effect on China's economy — possibly sending the rest of the world into a financial crisis.

Fitch Ratings has already cut its rating on the company last week and said it considered the property giant to be in default after two subsidiaries missed coupon payments. 

Regulators have sought to assure the market that Evergrande's troubles are ring-fenced and managed — but the Chinese government has also signaled there will be no outright bailout for the real estate giant. The market is now expecting a long-drawn restructuring mirroring high-profile meltdowns Beijing has handled in the past.

Authorities already asked government-owned firms and state-backed property developers to buy some of Evergrande's assets, Reuters reported in September.

And Evergrande has divested some businesses to raise cash, including Chinese streaming platform HengTen and Dutch electric motor maker e-Traction.

The developer's troubles have already personally cost its billionaire founder and chairman. Hui has reportedly been selling and pledging assets to keep the company afloat after the Chinese government instructed him to use his own money to pay down company debt, unnamed sources told Bloomberg in October.

Last week, Hui was forced to sell 277.8 million pledged Evergrande shares after an unnamed third party enforced a "security interest" in them. He still owns about 60% of the company and is worth about $6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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

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Apple pushes back its return-to-office indefinitely, temporarily closes 3 stores over Omicron variant: reports

  • Apple staff were set to return to the office in February but are now returning at a "date yet to be determined."
  • CEO Tim Cook said the move is due to a global rise in COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.
  • Cook also announced a $1,000 bonus for employees for work-from-home needs.

Apple is pushing back its return-to-office date indefinitely, Bloomberg and The New York Times reported, citing an internal memo from CEO Tim Cook.

Cook said the move is due to a global increase in COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant, according to the reports. Apple staff were set to return to the office in February but Cook said it's now on a "date yet to be determined," according to the reports.

Cook also announced a $1,000 bonus in the memo for employees for work-from-home needs, according to the reports. Retail workers will get the bonus as well, Bloomberg added.

Apple's delay of its back-to-office plan follows those at other major tech companies — including Google and Facebook parent company Meta — due to uncertainty over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Apple has also temporarily closed three stores, in Miami, Annapolis, and Ottawa amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. According to its website, the Miami store is set to reopen on Friday and the Ottawa and Annapolis stores will resume operations on Saturday.

Earlier this week, Apple reinstated a mask mandate for customers and employees at all US stores.

Apple did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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Evergrande’s boss forced to sell an additional 277.8 million shares as China’s government says it’s not bailing the property giant out

Hui Ka Yan
Evergrande billionaire Hui Ka Yan was forced to give up an additional 2% of his stake in the property giant last week.
  • The sale of 277.8 million pledged shares was due to forced selling by a third party.
  • The forced sales cut Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan's stake in the company from 61.88% to 59.78%.
  • According to Bloomberg calculations, the shares were worth around HK$498 million (US$64 million).

The chairman and founder of debt-laden Chinese developer Evergrande has been forced to cut his stake in the company, according to filings with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The sale of 277.8 million shares sold last Monday to Thursday was due to forced selling by a third party with whom billionaire Hui Ka Yan pledged the shares. The filings showed that the sale was to enforce a "security interest" in the shares.

The documents did not disclose who the third party was or how much the shares were sold for, but according to Bloomberg calculations, they would be worth around HK$498 million (US$64 million) based on the average Evergrande share price last week. 

The forced sales cut Hui's stake in Evergrande last Friday from 61.88% to 59.78%, according to the disclosures.

This latest disposal adds to the list of Hui's personal assets has sold in recent months, and comes as the Chinese government has signaled that there will be no bailout for Evergrande, with central bank governor Yi Gang saying last Thursday that Evergrande's inability to meet its obligations is a market event, Bloomberg reported.

Shenzhen-headquartered Evergrande is the world's most indebted developer, with $300 billion in liabilities and it's being scrutinized by investors who fear its collapse could send the rest of the sector — and possibly the rest of the world — into crisis.

Separately on Thursday, Fitch Ratings cut its rating on Evergrande and said it considered the property giant to be in default after two subsidiaries missed coupon payments. 

The Chinese government had instructed Hui to use his own money to pay down company debt, unnamed sources told Bloomberg in October.

In late November, Hui sold 1.2 billion shares — his first divestment since Evergrande went public in 2009, according to Bloomberg.

He is now worth $6.23 billion — down from a high of $42 billion in 2017, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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Evergrande’s boss forced to sell an additional 277.8 million shares as China’s government says it’s not bailing the property giant out

Hui Ka Yan
Evergrande billionaire Hui Ka Yan was forced to give up an additional 2% of his stake in the property giant last week.
  • The sale of 277.8 million pledged shares was due to forced selling by a third party.
  • The forced sales cut Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan's stake in the company from 61.88% to 59.78%.
  • According to Bloomberg calculations, the shares were worth around HK$498 million (US$64 million).

The chairman and founder of debt-laden Chinese developer Evergrande has been forced to cut his stake in the company, according to filings with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The sale of 277.8 million shares sold last Monday to Thursday was due to forced selling by a third party with whom billionaire Hui Ka Yan pledged the shares. The filings showed that the sale was to enforce a "security interest" in the shares.

The documents did not disclose who the third party was or how much the shares were sold for, but according to Bloomberg calculations, they would be worth around HK$498 million (US$64 million) based on the average Evergrande share price last week. 

The forced sales cut Hui's stake in Evergrande last Friday from 61.88% to 59.78%, according to the disclosures.

This latest disposal adds to the list of Hui's personal assets has sold in recent months, and comes as the Chinese government has signaled that there will be no bailout for Evergrande, with central bank governor Yi Gang saying last Thursday that Evergrande's inability to meet its obligations is a market event, Bloomberg reported.

Shenzhen-headquartered Evergrande is the world's most indebted developer, with $300 billion in liabilities and it's being scrutinized by investors who fear its collapse could send the rest of the sector — and possibly the rest of the world — into crisis.

Separately on Thursday, Fitch Ratings cut its rating on Evergrande and said it considered the property giant to be in default after two subsidiaries missed coupon payments. 

The Chinese government had instructed Hui to use his own money to pay down company debt, unnamed sources told Bloomberg in October.

In late November, Hui sold 1.2 billion shares — his first divestment since Evergrande went public in 2009, according to Bloomberg.

He is now worth $6.23 billion — down from a high of $42 billion in 2017, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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Chinese tech companies are reportedly laying off staff amid the government’s tech crackdown

chinese office workers
Office workers walk along a street during lunch time in Beijing
  • Video streaming platform iQiyi is laying off some 20% of its workforce, reported Caixin Global.
  • Short video app Kuaishou may cut 10% to 30% of its staff, The Paper reported.
  • The news of the layoffs come after a tumultuous year in Chinese tech with the government rolling out a series of regulations to rein in the sector.

Layoffs have reportedly rocked China's tech sector amid the government's ongoing tech crackdown.

Among those affected are iQiyi — seen as the Netflix of China — and Kuaishou — a short video app competing against TikTok parent ByteDance.

Video streaming platform iQiyi is laying off hundreds of workers, or some 20% of its workforce across various departments, reported Caixin Global, citing company employees. The outlet reported that in the least profitable divisions, up to 40% of the staff have been made redundant.

According to a company press release, Nasdaq-listed iQiyi posted 1.4 billion Chinese yuan ($220 million) in operating losses in the third quarter this year,

The company saw decreased ad revenues after many of its programs were delayed due to COVID-19 production issues, it said in its third quarter earnings call. It is also dealing with programming shakeups. In August, iQiyi announced it would stop airing idol competitions amid the government's crackdown on fan culture, Reuters reported. 

Meanwhile, Kuaishou is also in the midst of a round of layoffs with mid-level managers and low-performing workers likely to go, reported China's The Paper, citing company employees. The media outlet cited staff saying on social media that the Hong Kong-listed company may cut between 10% to 30% of its staff.

Chinese tech firms typically lay off underperformers at the end of the calendar year, but there appear to be far more job cuts this year, the South China Morning Post reported. 

The news of the layoffs come after a tumultuous year in Chinese tech, with the government rolling out a series of regulations to rein in the sector. They include some of the world's strictest digital-privacy regulations, time limits on video gaming for children, and a ban on private tutoring, including online tutoring platforms.

The regulations have not spared China's tech heavyweights. ByteDance's edutech sector announced layoffs in August, according to Bloomberg. And Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on Monday announced it was reorganizing its businesses and would appoint a new CFO.

iQiyi and Kuaishou did not respond immediately to Insider's requests for comment.

 

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