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Trump bans transactions with ByteDance and Tencent

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Trump escalates his campaign against Chinese tech companies, Facebook extends work from home until the middle of 2021 and Netflix adds support for Hindi. Here’s your Daily Crunch for August 7, 2020.

The big story: Trump signs orders banning US business with TikTok owner ByteDance and Tencent’s WeChat

Both orders will take effect in 45 days, but its specific impact is unclear since Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will apparently not identify what transactions are covered until then.

This comes after Trump had already said that he was banning TikTok unless the app is sold to an American owner. (Specifically Microsoft, which has acknowledged that it’s in acquisition talks.)

TikTok hit back against the order by saying that it was “issued without any due process” and would risk “undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law.”

The tech giants

Facebook extends coronavirus work from home policy until July 2021 — Facebook has joined Google in saying it will allow employees to work from home until the middle of next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Netflix’s latest effort to make inroads in India: Support for HindiNetflix has rolled out support for Hindi, a language spoken by nearly half a billion people in India.

Judge says Uber, Lyft preliminary injunction ruling to come in ‘a matter of days’ — Lyft argued that reclassifying drivers as employees would cause irreparable harm.

Startups, funding and venture capital

The rules of VC are being broken — The latest episode of Equity discusses “rolling funds” and how they could change the VC landscape.

Mashroom raises £4M for its ‘end-to-end’ lettings and property management service — The startup pitches itself as going “beyond the tenant-finding service” to include the entire rental journey.

Wendell Brooks has resigned as president of Intel Capital — Anthony Lin, who has been leading mergers and acquisitions and international investing, will take over on an interim basis.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

How to pick the right Series A investors — It’s important for founders to get to know the people coming onto their board, and Jake Saper of Emergence Capital has some thoughts on how to do that.

IoT and data science will boost foodtech in the post-pandemic era — Three “must-dos” for post-pandemic retail grocers: rely on the data, rely on the biology and rely on the hardware.

Survey: Tell us what you think of Extra Crunch — Like Extra Crunch? Don’t like Extra Crunch? Tell us why!

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Civic tech platform Mobilize launches a census hub for the 2020 count’s critical final stretch —The new site, GetOutTheCount.com, will amplify nonprofits’ census efforts and collect them in one place.

Federal judge approves ending consent decrees that prevented movie studios from owning theaters — U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres cited the rise of streaming services like Netflix as one of the reasons for her decision.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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TikTok and Oracle deal could be approved by Trump despite resistance from Republicans

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The deal would require extensive outside oversight of TikTok in the United States, including a plan for the company to go public within the next year or so to increase transparency into its operations, one of the individuals said.

Mnuchin called senior Defense Department officials Wednesday and briefed them on the deal but told them it was going to get done regardless, according to some of the people familiar with the talks.

His message was, “Give me your concerns and I will try to address them, but we are doing this,” said one former U.S. official briefed on the call who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Oracle chief executive Safra Catz has developed a close relationship with the White House, including serving on Trump’s transition team as he took office. Nonetheless, Trump met with Oracle on Wednesday and expressed concerns with the deal, a senior administration official said.

Trump told reporters Wednesday that he would not be happy if ByteDance maintained its majority stake in the business.

“Conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that,” Trump said. “If that’s the case, I’m not going to be happy with that.”

Mnuchin will have to overcome Trump’s reluctance. “I don’t think anybody has the ability to push something through if the president is opposed to it,” said a senior administration official.

TikTok confirmed this week that it has chosen Oracle as its “trusted technology partner” after two months of confusion and harried dealmaking, as Trump moved to ban the short-form video app in the country, citing national security concerns. Suitors including Microsoft, Walmart and Oracle were interested bidders, but as government requirements conflicted in Washington and Beijing, TikTok eventually presented a deal that marked a significant step back from a full sale.

Instead, the proposed deal would make TikTok’s U.S. user data entrusted “exclusively” to Oracle and give Oracle oversight over all TikTok’s technical operations in the country, according to the person familiar with the talks. The entire deal is designed to quell officials’ fears that TikTok poses a national security threat because of its Chinese parent company. TikTok has said repeatedly it does not share U.S. customer information with the Chinese government.

U.S. officials say, however, Chinese laws require Chinese companies to share data with the government if directed and give the companies no discretion to refuse.

The Treasury Department sent the proposal back to the companies Wednesday with revisions on how the security structure would work, and ByteDance accepted the changes, one of the people said.

Under the proposed deal, the U.S. government would be able to approve the board members of the new TikTok entity, which would probably include Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon. Walmart would invest in the company, one of the people said.

TikTok would also prepare for a U.S. public offering in the next year. And it would allow a third-party organization to conduct audits and oversight of its operations.

Oracle, Walmart and TikTok did not comment beyond previous public statements earlier this week.

The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell had no comment.

TikTok’s saga with the U.S. government heated up this summer when Trump threatened to ban the app and eventually issued an order that takes effect Sunday, though the government hasn’t said exactly what that ban would look like. The Commerce Department will issue an order Friday spelling out what transactions will be subject to the ban.

“We are focused on the corporate level transactions, the business-to-business relationships,” the senior administration official said. “We’re not interested in going after the college kid in his dorm room taking videos. If people have TikTok on their phones, they’re not going to find themselves before a judge.”

Trump issued a second order that would require ByteDance to essentially divest from TikTok in the U.S. under a process by the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency organization that oversees mergers with foreign companies for national security risks.

Longtime CFIUS staff are upset about how the deal is being handled and have expressed concerns that what is supposed to be a walled-off national security process is being increasingly politicized, according to a former CFIUS official.

By law, the Treasury Department “is the chair of CFIUS and therefore the ‘first among equals,’” said another former official, “but it does not grant them authority to blatantly steamroll other CFIUS member agencies and ignore legitimate national security concerns. Unfortunately, the system has drifted off course.”

The companies and government have been working to finish the deal before the ban is set to take place in just a few days. Mnuchin previously said on CNBC that the deal would also require TikTok to establish a U.S. headquarters for the newly created company and hire an additional 20,000 people here. Currently, TikTok runs its U.S. operations from Culver City, Calif.

Oracle was a somewhat surprising choice to win the TikTok deal after weeks of speculation that Microsoft was the front-runner in the bidding process.

Oracle, which provides database and other services to large companies, does not have a consumer business. But its executives have close ties to Trump, and TikTok is probably an attractive target to boost Oracle’s cloud technology business, which has failed to break into the top of the pack.

TikTok could also bolster Oracle’s data brokerage business, which collects detailed information on consumers to sell to advertisers. TikTok has a growing U.S. base of about 100 million users quarterly.

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One lucky winner of this reality TV show will win a trip to the ISS

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International Space Station

Is The International Space Station your dream vacation destination? You may be in luck.


NASA/Roscosmos

One reality TV show aims to give its winning contestant an out-of-this-world prize (sorry, I had to). Production company Space Hero has reportedly said it plans to send the champion of a new show to the International Space Station for 10 days. The mission is slated for 2023.

The reality show, also called Space Hero, will be produced by Propagate, according to a Thursday story by Deadline. Startup Axiom Space is reportedly in charge of training the aspiring astronauts and managing the mission. 

The contestants will go through rigorous training and be tested for their physical, mental and emotional strength, according to Deadline. The competition is rumored to culminate in a live episode that’s broadcast around the world so viewers can vote for who they want to win. The show will then document the winner’s journey during takeoff and at the ISS, concluding with their return home.  

It’s not clear how much it costs to send someone privately to the ISS, but it’s likely to be more than $50 million per person, CNBC speculates. Additionally, the publication notes, spending 10 days at the ISS would bring an additional $350,000 charge from NASA, as the space agency would get $35,000 a night per person to compensate for services needed while aboard the ISS, according to NASA’s cost structure revealed last year.

Space Hero and Axiom Space didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The New Apple Watch Measures Your Blood Oxygen. Now What?

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The new Apple Watch can be summed up in two words: blood oxygen.

The ability to measure your blood’s oxygen saturation — an overall indicator of wellness — is the most significant new feature in the Apple Watch Series 6, which was unveiled this week and becomes available on Friday. (The watch is otherwise not that different from last year’s Apple watch.) The feature is particularly timely with the coronavirus, because some patients in critical condition with Covid-19 have had low blood oxygen levels.

But how useful is this feature for all of us, really?

I had a day to test the new $399 Apple Watch to measure my blood oxygen level. The process was simple: You open the blood oxygen app on the device, keep your wrist steady and hit the Start button. After 15 seconds, during which a sensor on the back of the watch measures your blood oxygen level by shining lights onto your wrist, it shows your reading. In three tests, my blood oxygen level stood between 99 percent and 100 percent.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this information. So I asked two medical experts about the new feature. Both were cautiously optimistic about its potential benefits, especially for research. The ability to constantly monitor blood oxygen levels with some degree of accuracy, they said, could help people discover symptoms for health conditions like sleep apnea.

“Continuous recording of data can be really interesting to see trends,” said Cathy A. Goldstein, a sleep physician at the University of Michigan’s Medicine Sleep Clinic, who has researched data collected by Apple Watches.

But for most people who are relatively healthy, measuring blood oxygen on an everyday basis could be way more information than we need. Ethan Weiss, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said he was concerned that blood oxygen readings could breed anxiety in people and lead them to take unnecessary tests.

“It can be positive and negative,” he cautioned. “It could keep people out of doctors’ offices and at home and give them reassurance, but it could also create a lot of anxiety.”

That’s important to remember as smart watches gain new health-monitoring features that give us information about ourselves that we have to figure out how to use. When the Apple Watch Series 4 introduced an electrical heart sensor for people to take electrocardiograms in 2018, it was useful for people with known heart conditions to monitor their health — but doctors warned that it was also a novelty that should not be used to jump to conclusions or for people to self-diagnose heart attacks or other conditions.

And so, here we are again.

A healthy person will usually have blood oxygen levels in the mid- to high 90s. When people have health conditions such as lung disease, sleep disorders or respiratory infections, levels can dip to the 60s to the low 90s, Dr. Goldstein said.

If you buy the Apple Watch and have access to information about your blood oxygen levels all the time, it’s important to have a framework for thinking about the data. Most importantly, you should have a primary care physician with whom you can share the measurements so that you can place it into context with your overall health, like your age and pre-existing conditions, Dr. Goldstein said.

But when it comes to medical advice and diagnosis, always defer to a doctor. If you notice a big dip in your blood oxygen level, it is not necessarily a reason to panic, and you should talk to your doctor to decide whether to investigate. And if you have symptoms of illness, such as fever or a cough, a normal blood oxygen reading shouldn’t be a reason to skip talking to a medical professional, Dr. Goldstein said.

Let a medical expert — not your watch — create the action plan.

Blood oxygen monitoring may be more useful for people who are already known to have health problems, Dr. Weiss said. For example, if someone with a history of heart failure saw lower saturation levels in their blood oxygen during exercise, that information could be shared with a doctor, who could then modify the treatment plan.

The information could also be used to determine whether a sick person should go to the hospital. “If a patient called me and said, ‘I have Covid and my oxygen level is at 80 percent,’ I would say, ‘Go to the hospital,”’ Dr. Weiss said.

In the end, health data on its own isn’t immediately useful, and we have to decide how to make the best use of the information. Apple doesn’t recommend what to do or how to feel about the information, just as a bathroom scale doesn’t tell you you’re overweight and give you a diet plan.

If you find that the data makes you more anxious, you could simply disable the feature, Dr. Goldstein said.

But even if blood oxygen measurement sounds gimmicky today, it’s important to keep an open mind about how new health-monitoring technologies might benefit us in the future. Both Dr. Goldstein and Dr. Weiss pointed to sleep apnea as an area where wearable computers might benefit people. The condition, which causes breathing problems during sleep, affects millions of Americans, but most people never know that they have it.

It’s a bit of a catch-22. If you had symptoms of sleep apnea, which include lower blood oxygen levels, your doctor would order a test. But you probably wouldn’t catch the symptoms while you were asleep, so a study would never be ordered.

The Apple watch will periodically measure your blood oxygen level in the background, including when you are asleep. So if we gather data about ourselves while we’re slumbering, we might discover something unknown about ourselves — or not.

“Until we start doing it, we don’t know whether or not this information can be valuable,” Dr. Goldstein said.

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