Jack Ma to unveil succession plans, not imminent retirement: SCMP

 

Alibaba co-founder and chairman Jack Ma will unveil a succession plan on Monday, the South China Morning Post reported Sunday, with a company spokesman denying a New York Times report that he would retire that day.

The SCMP, which is owned by Alibaba, said China’s most famous tech billionaire will “unveil a succession strategy” on Monday — his 54th birthday — but remain the company’s executive chairman for the foreseeable future.

The New York Times ran an article on Friday, based on an interview with Ma, saying the former teacher turned billionaire planned to use his birthday to announce his retirement as chairman of Alibaba to focus on philanthropy.

The paper quoted Ma as saying the decision was “the beginning of an era”.

But an Alibaba spokesman told the SCMP that the New York Times’ story “was taken out of context, and factually wrong”.

“An Alibaba spokesman said Ma remains the company’s executive chairman and will provide transition plans over a significant period of time,” the SCMP wrote.

The paper added that the Monday succession strategy was part of a plan “for grooming a generation of younger executives to take over the reins” of the company.

Eileen Murphy, a spokesperson for the New York Times, said the newspaper stood by its story.

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999 and built it into a multibillion-dollar internet colossus, becoming one of the world’s richest men and a revered figure in his homeland.

His own worth has soared along with that of the company, which has added cloud computing, films and e-payments to its growing portfolio and was valued at $420.8 billion when the stock market closed on Friday.

The New York Times’ report surprised many in the global business community because of Ma’s comparative youth, especially in China where it is not unusual for tycoons to remain in place into their eighties.

Alibaba did not return requests for comment on Saturday after the story ran.

Ma gave up the title of Alibaba CEO in 2013 but remains a pivotal figure within the company as well as its most recognisable face.

 

~ AFP

Advertisements

Egypt sentences 75 to death, hundreds to jail over 2013 sit-in

asdasd

 

The sentencing, which included jail terms for more than 600 others, concluded a mass trial of people accused of murder and inciting violence during the pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest at Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo.

The decision can be appealed within 60 days.

Rabaa square was the single most deadly incident in unrest which followed the 2011 popular uprising that toppled Egypt’s longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

It occurred weeks after the military ousted Egypt’s first freely elected head of state, Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.

The government says many protesters were armed and that eight members of the security forces were killed.

Rights groups say more than 800 protesters died. Amnesty International condemned Saturday’s decision, calling the trial “disgraceful”.

Those sentenced to jail included a U.S. citizen, Moustafa Kassem, rights group Pretrial Rights International said. Washington is Cairo’s closest Western ally and one of its top aid donors.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday met U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel as the two countries launched a joint military exercise off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.

In Saturday’s hearing at the vast Tora prison complex south of Cairo, a criminal court sentenced to death by hanging several prominent Islamists including senior Brotherhood leaders al-Erian and Beltagi and preacher Safwat Higazi.

Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie and dozens more were given life sentences, judicial sources said. Others received jail sentences ranging from five to 15 years.

Cases were dropped against five people who died while in prison, judicial sources said.

Following weeks of protests against the ouster of Islamist President Mursi by the military, which at the time was led by current president Sisi, security forces violently broke up the Rabaa square demonstration.

They arrested hundreds of people who were charged with inciting violence, murder and organising illegal protests.

‘MOCKERY OF JUSTICE’

Rights groups have criticised the trial for including many peaceful protesters and journalists.

An award-winning photographer who covered the protests, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, was sentenced to five years in jail, but would soon be released because his five years in detention during the trial are counted towards the sentence, judicial sources said.

Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, was awarded a UN World Press Freedom Prize this year. He was charged with belonging to a banned group and possessing firearms.

“We condemn today’s verdict in the strongest terms,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “The fact that not a single police officer has been brought to account … shows what a mockery of justice this trial was.”

Since Sisi was elected president in 2014, authorities have justified a crackdown on dissent and freedoms as being directed at militants and saboteurs trying to undermine the state.

Death sentences have been handed down to hundreds of his political opponents on charges such as belonging to an illegal organization or planning to carry out an attack. Often the sentences are not carried out, but rights groups say hangings have increased in recent years, with dozens taking place each year.

For executions to take place, Sisi must issue a final approval.

Supporters say a security crackdown is needed to stabilise Egypt, which still faces an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and is reeling financially from years of unrest.

 

~ Reuters

Plane with Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team crashes in Colombia, 75 dead

 

A charter plane carrying Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense to the biggest game in its history crashed in the Colombian mountains after an electrical fault, killing 75 people on board, authorities said on Tuesday.

Colombia’s worst air disaster in two decades came as the team from Brazil’s top soccer league flew to face Atletico Nacional of Medellin in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final, South America’s equivalent of the Europa League.

The plane, en route from Bolivia where the team had a stopover, went down about 10:15 p.m. on Monday night with 72 passengers and a crew of nine on board.

It had reported electrical problems and declared an emergency minutes earlier as it neared its destination, Medellin airport officials said.

At the crash scene near the town of La Union in wooded highlands outside Medellin, dozens of bodies were laid out and covered with sheets around the wreckage of the BAe 146.

The plane was shattered against a mountainside with the tail end virtually disintegrated. Rain hampered dozens of rescuers as they combed the muddy and forested area.

Colombia’s civil aviation head, Alfredo Bocanegra, said there were 75 confirmed fatalities, with six injured survivors. They were listed as three players, a journalist and two members of the flight crew. Two of the six were in grave condition.

It was the first time Chapecoense, a small club from the southern Brazilian town of Chapeco, had reached the final of a major South American club competition.

Brazilian news organizations said 21 journalists had been on board the plane to cover the match.

Global soccer was stunned, matches were canceled around South America, and Brazil declared three days of mourning.

“I express my solidarity in this sad hour during which tragedy has beset dozens of Brazilian families,” President Michel Temer said.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted his condolences. “Solidarity with the families of the victims and Brazil,” he said.

~Reuters

Iraqi forces push deeper into eastern Mosul

 

Iraqi special forces said they recaptured six districts of eastern Mosul on Friday, expanding the army’s foothold in the Islamic State bastion a day after its leader told his jihadist followers there could be no retreat.

An officer in the elite Counter Terrorism Service, which has spearheaded the Mosul offensive, said troops had launched a major operation against the militants who are now almost surrounded in their last major urban redoubt in Iraq.

CTS special forces took over Malayeen, Samah, Khadra, Karkukli, Quds and Karama districts, the army said.

“This is something very big – it means large parts of the left bank have been liberated,” CTS commander Lieutenant-General Talib Shaghati said, referring to the half of Mosul which lies on the east bank of the Tigris.

However, a resident of one district which the army declared recaptured told Reuters after the announcement that clashes continued.

“It’s true urban warfare,” he said by telephone.

In the neighborhood of Intisar, still fiercely contested by the army and jihadists, a Reuters correspondent heard heavy gunfire and explosions. Black smoke rose from an area nearby and damaged buildings showed signs of combat.

The territory taken by the government still amounts to just a fraction of the sprawling city, which is divided into dozens of residential and industrial districts and was home to 2 million people before it was captured by Islamic State in 2014.

The battle to drive the fighters out is the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003, and is likely to decide the fate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate that has defied the world for two years.

The advances took the troops 1 mile (1 1/2 km) inside the city. Districts captured so far, however, are less built-up than other areas, particularly those on the west bank of the Tigris, where the population is more exclusively Sunni Muslim Arab and the hardline Sunni Islamists could be more deeply embedded.

Iraqi officers and those from a U.S.-led coalition providing air and ground support to the offensive say progress has been faster than expected but stress that the operation is still in its early stages.

SPECIAL FORCES

Iraqi regular troops and special forces, Shi’ite militias, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and other groups backed by U.S.-led air strikes launched their campaign to retake Mosul nearly three weeks ago.

Winning back the city would crush the Iraqi half of a cross-border caliphate declared by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a Mosul mosque two years ago.

Islamic State also holds large parts of neighboring Syria, but Mosul is by far the largest city under control of the ultra-hardline militants in either country, many times bigger than any other city the militants have held.

In a speech released on Thursday Baghdadi said there could be no retreat in a “total war” against the forces arrayed against Islamic State, telling fighters they must remain loyal to their commanders.

Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said intelligence suggested he had “vacated the scene”, and a Kurdish intelligence source said he was believed to be in the region of Baaj, about 130 km (80 miles) west of Mosul.

Mosul is still home to nearly 1.5 million people, who risk being caught up in brutal urban warfare. The United Nations has warned of a potential humanitarian crisis and a refugee exodus. Iraqi officials say Islamic State is holding the civilian population as human shields.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said on Friday Islamic State fighters had killed hundreds of people, including 50 deserters and 180 former Iraqi government employees, around Mosul.

They have also transported 1,600 people from the town of Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, to Tal Afar to the west, possibly for use as human shields against air strikes, and told residents to hand over boys above the age of nine, in an apparent recruitment drive for child soldiers.

The United Nations says 22,000 people have been displaced since the start of the Mosul campaign, not including thousands from outlying villages forced to head to Mosul by retreating Islamic State fighters who used them as human shields.

ROCKET LAUNCHERS

Mosul residents, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said Islamic State fighters were deploying artillery and rocket launchers in and near residential areas.

Some were hidden in trees near the Wahda district in the south, while others were deployed on the rooftops of houses taken over by the militants in the Ghizlani district close to Mosul airport, they said.

~ Reuters

What if everyone’s wrong?

Image result for us elections 2016

Trump has a path, and if the polls are wrong, it’s wider than thought.

Hillary Clinton leads in most national polls and in enough battleground states to put her on pace to surpass the 270 electoral votes she needs Tuesday to become the next president. But not far beneath the surface, as Donald Trump has narrowed the gap following the late-breaking FBI announcement of a renewed review of emails related to her private server, lurks a question making Democrats squirm in these frenzied final days.

What if the polls are wrong?

And more: What if Clinton’s vaunted data operation and ground game don’t deliver? What if there is, in fact, a “silent majority” of Trump fans? What if Clinton’s banked stash of early votes is insufficient? What if, as President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe not so affectionately describes nervous Democrats, the “bed-wetters” are right?

“Our magnificent, historic movement has surprised the world and defied expectations at every single turn,” Trump told a crowd in Orlando, Florida, this week. “And now, next Tuesday, we will have one more glorious surprise for the pundits, the politicians and the special interests when we win and return the power back to the people.”

It’s an outcome that official Washington — more consumed with potential Clinton Cabinet picks (Biden! Sandberg!), her policy agenda, the battle for the Senate — seems wholly unprepared for.

“I don’t think Washington has ever been in touch with this election,” said longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “I end every speech with the Yogi Berra saying, ‘It ain’t over until it’s over’ and it ain’t over until we get the votes counted.”

While Trump remains decidedly the underdog, his path to 270 is not nonexistent. In the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, Trump trailed by 3 percentage points, shrunken from 9 points behind only weeks ago.

“The trend lines are clearly going in our direction,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said this week on MSNBC.

As Clinton’s margin has eroded in recent days, the political focus has shifted from Democratic boasts of flipping Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Utah to safeguarding Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

Averages of the public polls in all those latter Democratic states still show Clinton leading — albeit by tighter margins — which would essentially choke off Trump’s path to the White House.

“We’ve seen this a couple times where Hillary Clinton is leading by 3 to 5. Something happens. Her numbers spike to 10. They drop back down. Everyone wets themselves. Rinse. Repeat,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama. “She was never going to win by 10.”

Still, Pfeiffer understood the uneasiness, saying he’s asked about it everywhere he goes. “The consequences of a loss here are much greater than they’d be in a normal year,” he said. “You’re more nervous if you’re playing Russian roulette than flipping a coin.”

Then there is the fact that polls — and polling averages — are not infallible. In 2012, Romney led 20 Florida polls in October and November and Obama led in only seven. Obama won the state. And in 2014, in the battle for the Senate majority, pollsters missed the result in race after race far in excess of the margin of error.

In Virginia, Sen. Mark Warner had led the polling average by nearly 10 percentage points on Election Day. He won by less than 1 point. In Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell won by nearly 15 points, 8 points ahead of the polling average. In Arkansas, Tom Cotton outperformed the polling average by 10 points. In Kansas, Sen. Pat Roberts trailed the polling average on Election Day, and he won by more than 10 points.

Josh Holmes, who served as McConnell’s campaign manager and monitored the map nationwide as Republicans retook the Senate majority that year, heeded caution for those trumpeting the demise of Trump already.

“It’s never over,” he said.

Two years ago, Holmes said, “the environment was improving almost every week as we got closer to Election Day, so what you didn’t know was which way voters would finally break at the polls.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 officially announced: everything you need to know

samsung-galaxy-note-7-hands-on-aa-second-batch-20-840x472.jpg

Samsung’s Galaxy Note series is one of the most iconic smartphone lines of all time. Not only do they come with great specifications and features for power users, but this is also the area in which Samsung decides to innovate a bit more than usual

Now, after weeks of leaked photos, specs and renders, Samsung has officially taken the wraps off its latest flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 7! It has a curved screen, some killer new S Pen features, top-of-the-line specs and many more surprises you’ll want to check out, so be sure to read on for the full rundown on this new handset.

It seems as though Samsung didn’t really start focusing on design until a couple years ago with the launch of the S6 and S6 Edge. The days of plasticky, faux-metal materials are completely gone, and it’s clear that the company is still choosing to stick with a more premium look and feel for their Note line. The Galaxy Note 7 looks like a Samsung device through and through; it’s comprised of glass front and back panels and has a frame made of aluminum. There’s one major design change with the Note 7, though, and it’s pretty clear if you’re looking at it head-on. It sports a curved display, just like the S7 Edge (we’ll talk more on this later)

Above the display sits a front-facing camera module and speaker, and below you’ll find a home button/fingerprint sensor setup flanked by Samsung’s oddly placed back and recent apps keys.

The power/standby key sits on the right side of the device, the volume keys on the left, and the bottom sports the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB Type-C port, speaker grills and S Pen slot. Yes, you read that correctly – the Note 7 sports USB Type-C! While that would normally mean all of your standard Micro USB cords would become instantly obsolete, Samsung is including an adapter in the box. Around back, the Note 7 is nearly indistinguishable from the back of the Note 5. There’s a squircle camera module towards the top in the center of the device, with the LED flash/HR sensor sitting to the right. Samsung also decided to keep the beloved curved edges on the back of the phone, which makes it much easier to hold.

And just like the S7 and S7 Edge, the Note 7 is waterproof. Samsung also says you’ll be able to take notes underwater, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 specifications, software and features

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Display 5.7-inch Dual-edge Super AMOLED display
2560 x 1440 resolution
518ppi
Processor Quad-core 64-bit (2.15GHz Dual + 1.6GHz Dual) Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or
Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8
RAM 4GB, LPDDR4
Storage 64GB
MicroSD Yes, up to 256GB
Cameras Rear: Dual Pixel 12MP sensor with OIS, f/1.7 aperture
Front: 5MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture
Battery 3,500mAh
Fast charging
WPC and PMA wireless charging
Water resistance IP68 rating
Connectivity WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz)
MU-MIMO(2×2) 620Mbps
Bluetooth v 4.2 LE
ANT+
USB Type-C
NFC
Location (GPS, Glonass, Beidou)
Sensors Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, HR
Sensor, Iris Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
Software Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Colors Silver, Gold Platinum, Blue Coral, Black Onyx
Dimensions and weight 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm
169g