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ViacomCBS sells Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for $2 billion – CNBC

ViacomCBS sells Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for $2 billion - CNBC

Simon & Schuster display at the London Book Fair at Kensington Olympia on the 12th March 2019 in London.

Sam Mellish | In Pictures | Getty Images

ViacomCBS announced Wednesday that it would sell publishing company Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, in a deal worth nearly $2.18 billion

The transaction is expected to close in 2021.

The deal comes after ViacomCBS put the global publisher up for auction, a move it made to divest non-core assets from its company. Proceeds from the deal will be put toward ViacomCBS’s streaming business, fund its dividend and pay down debt. The company also recently sold CNET for $500 million as part of this strategy.

Steaming has become a particularly important avenue for media companies as coronavirus cases have risen and traditional entertainment outlets like movie theaters and theme parks are largely closed to the public or viewed as unsafe destinations.

With Simon & Schuster as part of the company, Bertelsmann’s publishing empire will account for about a third of all books sold in the U.S. The deal would put some of the world’s bestselling authors including John Grisham, Bob Woodward, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen King under the same corporate umbrella.

Simon & Schuster will continue to be managed as a separate publishing unit under Penguin Random House. Jonathan Karp, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, alongside Dennis Eulau, who acts as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the company, will continue to helm the publishing company.

The deal could draw attention from the U.S. Justice Department, as the combined shares of Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House are large enough to dredge up antitrust concerns.

Through Oct. 24, Penguin Random House accounted for around 25% of all print books sold in the U.S. Simon & Schuster accounted for about 9.1%, according to market researcher NPD Group. With Simon & Schuster as part of its portfolio, Bertelsmann’s U.S. market share would jump to around 34%. The second-largest publisher, HarperCollins, comparatively accounts for around 11% of books sold in the U.S.

Since Simon & Schuster has a market share below 20%, the deal would be approvable, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe told reporters, according to multiple media accounts.

Book sales have been particularly robust this year as the coronavirus pandemic has limited other entertainment options. There is also a strong interest in political memoirs and books on social justice. In the nine-month period end Oct. 3, print book sales rose 6.4% from the prior year, according to data from NPD BookScan.

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U.S. retail sales fall again in December – CNBC

U.S. retail sales fall again in December - CNBC

U.S. retail sales declined further in December as renewed measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 undercut spending at restaurants and reduced traffic to shopping malls, the latest sign the economy lost considerable speed at the end of 2020.

Retail sales dropped 0.7% last month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. Data for November was revised down to show sales declining 1.4% instead of 1.1% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales unchanged in December.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales tumbled 1.9% last month after a downwardly revised 1.1% decline in November. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. They were previously estimated to have decreased by 0.5% in November.

The report followed in the wake of news last week that the economy shed jobs in December for the first time in eight months. Further job losses are likely in January as new applications for unemployment benefits surged in the first week of the month. The data are in line with economists’ expectations for a sharp slowdown in economic growth in the fourth quarter.

Rampant coronavirus infections and delays by the government to approve more money to help businesses and the unemployed are behind the loss of economic momentum. The government provided nearly $900 billion in additional pandemic relief at the end of December.

President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus plan that includes bolstering the response to the virus and direct relief to households and small businesses. The proposed additional relief and speeding up the deployment of vaccines are expected to boost spending and the economy in the second half of 2021.

Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are around a 5% annualized rate, largely reflecting an inventory build.

The economy grew at a 33.4% rate in the third quarter after contracting at a 31.4% pace in the April-June quarter, the deepest since the government started keeping records in 1947.

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Dutch government resigns after childcare benefits scandal – CNBC

Dutch government resigns after childcare benefits scandal - CNBC

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives on his bike before the Council of Ministers at the Binnenhof in The Hague.

REMKO DE WAAL | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The whole Dutch government collectively resigned on Friday after a scandal involving the mismanagement of childcare funds, which drove thousands of families into financial hardship.

An investigation revealed in December that tax officials wrongly accused thousands of working families of fraud and ordered them to repay childcare benefits between 2013 and 2019. The event has been described as an “unprecedented injustice” by some Dutch lawmakers.

The revelation led to the resignation on Thursday of opposition leader Lodewijk Asscher who was the minister in charge of social affairs in the previous administration.

The government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in power since 2017, decided on Friday to accept responsibility and collectively leave office on the back of the scandal.

“With today’s decision, the cabinet wants to do justice to all those parents who have been wronged unprecedentedly,” the prime minister said in a statement.

Speaking at a press conference, he added that the government would continue to lead the Covid-19 emergency response with a caretaker status.

Covid response

The Netherlands was already due to have a new parliamentary election in March, but the government’s resignation comes at a tricky time. The country is in national lockdown and has had almost 1 million Covid-19 infections and 12,875 deaths since the start of the health emergency, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Netherlands also needs to prepare a plan on how it will revamp the economy post-pandemic.

Rutte had previously said that a government resignation would not be helpful at this time as the nation needs stability to deal with the pandemic, Politico reported. However, this is not the first time that a Dutch administration has resigned collectively to show a common responsibility.

The families that were involved in this case have filed charges against five politicians this week, including the current finance minister, Wopke Hoekstra.

Given the proximity of the general election, ministers could end up staying in their roles until voters head to the polls.

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Microsoft to fix Windows 10 bug that can easily corrupt a hard drive – The Verge

Microsoft to fix Windows 10 bug that can easily corrupt a hard drive - The Verge

Microsoft says it’s planning to fix a bizarre Windows 10 bug that could corrupt a hard drive just by looking at an icon. Security researcher Jonas L first warned about the bug earlier this week, describing it as a “nasty vulnerability.” Attackers can hide a specially crafted line inside a ZIP file, folder, or even a simple Windows shortcut. All a Windows 10 user needs to do is extract the ZIP file or simply look at a folder that contains a malicious shortcut and it will automatically trigger hard drive corruption.

Will Dormann, a vulnerability analyst at the CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC), confirmed the findings, and notes that there could be more ways to trigger the NTFS corruption. Dormann also revealed the vulnerability has existed in Windows 10 for nearly three years, and that he reported another NTFS issue two years ago that still hasn’t been fixed.

“We are aware of this issue and will provide an update in a future release,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “The use of this technique relies on social engineering and as always we encourage our customers to practice good computing habits online, including exercising caution when opening unknown files, or accepting file transfers.”

Others have found that the vulnerability also occurs if you simply paste the offending string into the address bar in a browser. Bleeping Computer has also tested the bug in a variety of different ways, and notes that it will prompt Windows 10 users to reboot a PC to repair the corrupted disk records. The reboot will trigger the Windows chkdsk process, which should successfully repair the corruption.

The repair process isn’t always automatic, though. Dormann says it may require manual intervention to successfully repair the corrupted disk records. The bug also doesn’t require admin rights to trigger or special write permissions. That could make it more problematic for IT admins if chkdsk fails to automatically repair affected drives.

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A new Covid variant has been discovered in Brazil — heres what we know so far – CNBC

A new Covid variant has been discovered in Brazil — heres what we know so far - CNBC

A patient arrives at the 28 de Agosto Hospital in Manaus, Amazon State, Brazil, on January 14, 2021, amid the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic. Manaus is facing a shortage of oxygen supplies and bed space as the city has been overrun by a second surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.


LONDON — A new coronavirus variant identified in Brazil has exacerbated concern among public health experts, and led to warnings that additional new strains were likely to develop.

News of the variant in Brazil comes after two separate mutant strains of the virus were discovered in the U.K. and South Africa earlier this year.

Researchers are urgently studying the Covid variants, which are suspected to share similar characteristics, to gain a better understanding of the threat they pose.

Viruses naturally mutate and there is no evidence that the newly-discovered strains have more severe disease outcomes.

However, the Covid variants are thought to be more transmissible than the original one that started the pandemic, and this could lead to higher numbers of serious infections and additional deaths.

Health authorities have recommended handwashing, physical distancing and the use of personal protective equipment as a means to prevent virus spread.

What is known about the variant found in Brazil?

Earlier this month, Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said it had detected a new Covid variant in four travelers from Brazil’s Amazonas state on Jan. 2.

One male in his 40s, who was found to be asymptomatic on his arrival in Japan, was hospitalized as his respiratory condition worsened. One female in her 30s reported a sore throat and headache, one male aged between 10 and 19 recorded a fever and one young woman over the age of 10 was asymptomatic.

This variant of the virus belongs to the B.1.1.248 strain and has 12 mutations in the spike protein, the NIID said. Spike proteins are used by the virus to gain entry into cells within the body.

Nurses talk in front of the 28 de Agosto Hospital in Manaus, Amazon State, Brazil, on January 14, 2021, amid the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.


The NIID said it was difficult to immediately determine how infectious the new strain is and the effectiveness of vaccines against it.

To date, Brazil has recorded more than 8.3 million Covid cases and 207,000 virus deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The South American country is second only to the U.S. for Covid-related fatalities worldwide.

Travel ban

The U.K. imposed a ban on travelers from South America (and Portugal and Cape Verde) on Friday in an effort to stop people from bringing the new variant into the country.

The country’s Transport Minister Grant Shapps told the BBC it was a precautionary measure. He added that scientists think the coronavirus vaccines will work on the new variant.

“We had a look at this particular mutation, as opposed to many other thousands, very carefully, saw there may be an issue, not so much that the vaccine won’t work, in fact scientists think it will work, but just the fact it is more spreadable,” Shapps said, according to Reuters.

On Thursday, the U.K.’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance told ITV that there was a “bit more of a risk” regarding the Covid variant identified in Brazil when it came to vaccine effectiveness.

What about the mutant strains in the UK and South Africa?

On Dec. 14, health authorities in the U.K. reported a variant to the WHO identified as SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01. It is unclear how the new strain originated, but preliminary findings have determined it is highly infectious.

It initially appeared in southeast England, but it has since become the dominant strain across much of Britain and has spread to more than 50 other countries. Numerous nations imposed bans on travelers from the U.K. as a result.

Professional healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) make their way inside a temporary ward dedicated to the treatment of possible COVID-19 coronavirus patients at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on January 11, 2021.

Phill Magakoe | AFP | Getty Images

Separately, national authorities in South Africa on Dec. 18 announced the detection of variant 501Y.V2. Preliminary studies have shown the 501Y.V2 variant also has increased transmissibility. It has since reportedly been found in at least 20 other countries.

The variants, which originated separately, both share a genetic mutation of the spike protein.

What happens next?

Studies are ongoing to understand the transmissibility and severity of the newly-discovered Covid variants, as well as their potential impact on vaccines.

After approximately 10 months of relative inactivity, “we’ve started to see some striking evolution of SARS-CoV-2 with a repeated evolutionary pattern in the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern emerging from the UK, South Africa and Brazil,” Dr. Trevor Bedford, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Washington, said via Twitter on Thursday.

Bedford, who also works with Fred Hutch’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, cautioned the hypothesis was “highly speculative” at this point. “But separately, the fact that we’ve observed 3 variants of concern emerge since September suggests that there are likely more to come.”

To date, more than 93.2 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with 1.99 million deaths.

Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said Friday that the world had become “the virus’s playground to mutate and evolve, (especially) in countries which have allowed higher prevalence.”

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Live updates: Biden continues focus on coronavirus; Senate hearing for intelligence pick delayed – The Washington Post

Live updates: Biden continues focus on coronavirus; Senate hearing for intelligence pick delayed - The Washington Post

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