‘The Office’ to leave Netflix in 2021, head to NBCU streaming service

LOS ANGELES, June 25 (Reuters) – Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal will pull popular workplace comedy “The Office” from Netflix Inc in the United States in 2021 and make the show available on its own streaming service, the company said on Tuesday.

“The Office” is the No. 1 series on subscription video-on-demand services such as Netflix when measured by the number of minutes streamed, according to a statement from NBCU. The show was streamed for more than 52 billion minutes in 2018, twice as many as the next-viewed program, NBCU said.

Netflix has not publicly released viewership data for “The Office,” which ran for nine seasons on the NBC broadcast network from 2005 to 2013 and generated 200 episodes. The show was an American remake of a British comedy and starred Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski and others.

NBCU is following other media companies such as Disney that have decided to stop licensing programming to Netflix in order to build competing digital services of their own.

The new streaming service from NBCU is set to launch in 2020 with a library of film and TV franchises plus original content. Unlike Netflix, the NBCU service will include advertising.

“We’re sad that NBC has decided to take ‘The Office’ back for its own streaming platform,” a Netflix spokesman said, “but members can binge watch the show to their hearts content, ad-free, on Netflix until January 2021, plus the many other great TV series we’ve got coming.”

Reporting by Lisa Richwine, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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U.S. sanctions put telecoms firms off Cuba, internet task force says

HAVANA (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions on Cuba are deterring American firms from exploring its telecommunications sector even as Washington seeks to expand internet access on the Communist-run island, according to the final report of a U.S. government task force released on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: People connect to the internet at a hotspot in Havana, Cuba, September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Photo

Chinese companies dominate Cuba’s telecoms sector, a status quo “worth challenging given concerns that the Cuban government potentially obtains its censorship equipment from Chinese Internet infrastructure providers,” the report said.

Cuba’s government protested the U.S. State Department’s creation of a Cuba Internet Task Force last year as “foreign interference.” It remains unclear how open it would be to U.S. investment in the strategic telecoms sector.

“U.S. companies informed the subcommittees they are often deterred from entering the market due to uncertainty caused by frequent changes to U.S. regulations concerning Cuba,” according to the task force, convened last year by the State Department.

U.S. presidents have successively tightened and loosened the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba imposed in the years after its 1959 revolution.

Former President Barack Obama created a loophole for U.S. telecommunications companies to provide certain services to Cuba. His successor, Donald Trump, maintained the loophole but tightened the broader sanctions, worsening the overall business climate.

Banks are increasingly reluctant to process payments originating in Cuba. Some telecoms firms surveyed by the task force said that was putting them off offering key services and products in the country.

The task force advised the U.S. government to clear up the regulatory uncertainty and seek feedback on how to improve telecoms firms’ ability to invest.

Until 2013, the internet was largely available to the public in Cuba only at tourist hotels amid the U.S. embargo, lack of cash and concerns over the free flow of information.

The government has increased web access in recent years, installing a fiber-optic cable to Venezuela and introducing cyber cafes, Wi-Fi hot spots and mobile internet.

Cuban telecoms monopoly ETECSA signed a deal earlier this year with Alphabet Inc’s Google on increasing connectivity, but the two have not publicly agreed on any significant investments.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Peter Cooney

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UPDATE 1-Texas court rejects challenge to $2 bln Kinder Morgan gas pipeline

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Kinder Morgan Inc can begin work on a $2 billion natural gas pipeline without having the Texas energy regulator approve its proposed route, a state judge ruled on Tuesday.

The decision removes a challenge to the state’s licensing process that lets gas pipeline companies determine their own route and acquire land without a landowner’s consent. Texas is in the midst of a pipeline-construction boom with multi-billion-dollar projects underway to bring shale oil and gas to market.

A Travis County District court ruled the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, is not required to set standards for routing the pipelines or private land-takings, Judge Lora Livingston wrote on Tuesday. The state allows gas pipeline operators that qualify as utilities to use eminent domain to take land for the public good.

“The court finds no authority for the proposition that the legislature has granted authority to the Commission to oversee the rights granted,” she wrote. She also granted Kinder Morgan’s request to dismiss it from the suit.

The ruling was in response to a suit brought by a group of Texas landowners and Hays County, Texas, that said the oil and gas regulator failed to seek public input or properly supervise the routing of Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline, which will carry 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas about 400 miles from West Texas to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Reporting by Liz Hampton, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Chris Reese

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Wayfair employee walkout called over alleged furniture sales to U.S. migrant camp

(Reuters) – Wayfair Inc came under pressure on Tuesday after hundreds of employees were reported to be planning a walkout over the retailer’s alleged sale of more than $200,000 in bedroom furniture for a Texas detention facility for migrant children.

Shares of the company fell 5.3% to $144.40 on the New York Stock Exchange.

A Twitter account under the handle @wayfairwalkout, created this month with a following of more than 13,000 including high-profile Democratic U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called for the work stop on Wednesday.

Wayfair, headquartered in Boston, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The @wayfairwalkout account referred Reuters to the company and Reuters was not able to confirm it was created by Wayfair employees.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter: “I stand with hundreds of @Wayfair employees who are planning to stage a walkout at their Boston headquarters tomorrow. The safety and well-being of immigrant children is always worth fighting for.”

An image of a letter to Wayfair leaders from employees said that an order for more than $200,000 of bedroom furniture was destined for a facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas that would house migrant children seeking asylum.

Criticism has mounted this week over the detention of migrant children in overcrowded, squalid conditions.

“In response to a recent letter signed by 547 employees, our CEO said that the company would not cease doing business with contractors furnishing border camps,” @wayfairwalkout tweeted.

It demanded that Wayfair stop selling to migrant detention camps and that it give profits, which they claim amount to $86,000, to a Texas-based non-profit agency offering legal services to immigrants.

Screenshots on Twitter of a letter to employees that said it was from the retailer’s “leadership team” read, “…We believe it is our business to sell to any customer who is acting within the laws of the countries within which we operate.”

The walkout, scheduled to take place on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET in Boston’s Copley Square, is the latest example of employees protesting workplace social issues.

In June 2018, Alphabet Inc’s Google faced internal upheaval over a contract to help the U.S. military analyze aerial drone imagery.

The hashtag “#wayfairwalkout” was top trending in the United State on Twitter as of Tuesday evening.

“Wayfair workers couldn’t stomach they were making beds to cage children,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez. “They asked the company to stop. CEO said no. Tomorrow, they’re walking out.”

Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York, editing by Peter Henderson and Cynthia Osterman

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Tesla faces delivery bottleneck at close of second quarter: Electrek

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla Model 3 is seen in a showroom in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – Shares of Tesla Inc fell 1.7% on Tuesday after news website Electrek reported that the electric-car maker has so far delivered 49,000 vehicles in North America during the second quarter, threatening its goal of a new record.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had said last month that the company was on course to deliver a record number of cars in the quarter, beating the 90,700 it sent to customers in the final quarter of last year.

Electrek did not give any delivery number for international markets for the quarter.

The report said that when international market numbers are added, especially in places like Norway and China, Tesla will get pretty close to a new record.

It has over 12,000 additional orders as well and Tesla could end the quarter by delivering 61,000 vehicles in North America, the report said, citing sources inside the company. The report also says, citing a source familiar with the matter, that Tesla has delivered 22,000 vehicles in North America in June so far.

In the first quarter, Tesla reported a 31% fall in deliveries, sparking concerns about the company’s ability to make profits and meet its delivery targets while it grapples with issues related to cash flow and manufacturing.

Demand for Tesla’s Model 3 sedan and other cars have also moved to the top of investors’ list of worries after the company reported slack first-quarter demand against a backdrop of U.S.-China trade tensions.

Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty and Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Phil Berlowitz

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UPDATE 2-Tesla faces delivery bottleneck at close of Q2 -Electrek

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla Model 3 is seen in a showroom in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – Shares of Tesla Inc fell 1.7% on Tuesday after news website Electrek reported that the electric-car maker has so far delivered 49,000 vehicles in North America during the second quarter, threatening its goal of a new record.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had said last month that the company was on course to deliver a record number of cars in the quarter, beating the 90,700 it sent to customers in the final quarter of last year.

Electrek did not give any delivery number for international markets for the quarter.

The report said that when international market numbers are added, especially in places like Norway and China, Tesla will get pretty close to a new record.

It has over 12,000 additional orders as well and Tesla could end the quarter by delivering 61,000 vehicles in North America, the report said, citing sources inside the company. The report also says, citing a source familiar with the matter, that Tesla has delivered 22,000 vehicles in North America in June so far.

In the first quarter, Tesla reported a 31% fall in deliveries, sparking concerns about the company’s ability to make profits and meet its delivery targets while it grapples with issues related to cash flow and manufacturing.

Demand for Tesla’s Model 3 sedan and other cars have also moved to the top of investors’ list of worries after the company reported slack first-quarter demand against a backdrop of U.S.-China trade tensions.

Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty and Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Phil Berlowitz

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Texas court rejects challenge to $2 bln Kinder Morgan gas pipeline

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Kinder Morgan Inc can begin work on a $2 billion natural gas pipeline without having the Texas energy regulator approve its proposed route, a state judge ruled on Tuesday.

Judge Lora Livingston dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of landowners that challenged the state’s pipeline approval process. The lawsuit sought to halt construction on the pipeline, which would carry natural gas from west Texas to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Reporting by Liz Hampton, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck met up with a person at a park the night she disappeared after taking a Lyft, police said

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A University of Utah student missing for over a week was last seen meeting an unknown person at a park at 3 in the morning, authorities said Monday.

The 23-year-old woman is a student at the University of Utah.
Salt Lake City Police via AP

The Lyft driver who took Mackenzie Lueck from the airport and dropped her off at a park in a Salt Lake City suburb on June 17 told detectives the woman didn’t seem in any distress when she met the person, said Salt Lake City assistant police chief Tim Doubt.

The chief declined to say if she met a man or a woman and said detectives are trying to find the person. Police have searched the area around the park several times and reviewed surveillance video footage, Doubt said. It is located in North Salt Lake about 20 minutes from Lueck’s apartment.

Doubt said there is no evidence the 23-year-old woman is in danger but said they are concerned since she’s not been heard from. She has not been on social media, has missed classes, and wasn’t on a planned flight to Los Angeles on Sunday.

He acknowledged that sometimes people who are reported missing don’t want to talk to family and friends and issued a plea if that’s the case for her to reach out to police.

“We just want to make sure you are safe and we will respect your wishes,” Doubt said.

Lyft driver cleared

Salt Lake City Assistant Police Chief Tim Doubt speaks at a press conference concerning Lueck’s disappearance on Monday.
Rick Bowmer/AP

Lueck is a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing, spokesman Chris Nelson said. She has been a student there since 2014, he said.

Lueck returned early June 17 to the Salt Lake City airport after going home to California for a funeral, Doubt said. She texted her parents at about 2 a.m. that she had arrived.

Read more: A University of Utah nursing student disappeared after taking a Lyft more than a week ago

She was dropped at just about 3 a.m. at the park in North Salt Lake that sits in a popular downtown area nestled between apartment complexes and restaurants.

Police have no reason to doubt the Lyft driver’s story and have cleared him as a suspect, Doubt said. The Lyft driver, whose identity has not been revealed, gave other rides after dropping off the woman, he said.

Lyft spokeswoman Lauren Alexander said the route the driver took contained no irregularities and ended at the address requested by Lueck.

Friends and family suspicious

Hatch Park, in North Salt Lake, where Lueck was last seen alive, is seen above on Monday.
Rick Bowmer/AP

Ashley Fine, one of Lueck’s friends, told The Salt Lake Tribune that Lueck’s phone has been off since last Monday. She didn’t show up for her job at a Salt Lake City laboratory or her classes, she said. Fine described Lueck as a dedicated student and said missing classes was not something she did.

Lueck’s cat and car remain at her house. Her luggage hasn’t been located either, Fine said.

Lueck’s parents reported her missing Thursday. Friends spent the weekend passing out flyers and asking people to spread the word about Lueck’s disappearance.

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Here’s the pitch deck Careem used to secure its first round of venture capital. 6 years later, Uber acquired it in a $3 billion deal (UBER)

Uber has struggled to attain the same dominance in the tricky region of the Middle East that it’s built in places like the United States.

Those oversights — like taking two years to recognize that most consumers in the area didn’t have credit cards — helped Careem, an upstart ride-hailing company founded by former McKinsey partners, scale up with much success.

In its first seven years, Careem would rack up a market value near $2 billion as it continued to expand to 14 countries throughout the region, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and more. Those efforts were fueled in no small part by efforts to map previously undocumented cities and building out complex payments systems that can account for cash fares.

Speaking to Business Insider in February fewer than two months before Uber announced plans to acquire the company in a $3.1 billion deal, CEO Mudassir Sheikha said the region’s emerging economic status and infrastructure would make it difficult for an international giant like Uber to compete on their own without local expertise.

“For a global player to come in a start providing a service to the top 2% to 3% of the population is not difficult, they’re used to the convenience,” he said. “But as soon as you start going down the masses, you require a lot of tailoring.”

Read more: Careem’s CEO ribbed Uber for making a rookie error in the Middle East. Now Uber’s paying $3.1 billion to buy it.

But before Careem could become an Uber subsidiary, with the US-based ride-hailing giant coughing up $1.4 billion in cash and $1.7 billion in convertible notes for the company, the small team had to start somewhere.

In March 2013, the group set out to raise its first round of venture capital. Armed with these 21 slides, Sheikha and his co-founder Magnus Olsson successfully raised the company’s first $1.7 million round of venture capital (more than the $600,000 targeted in the presentation).

That same year, Careem would follow on the first raise’s success and raise another followed shortly by another $12.3 million in September from backers including STC Ventures, Iris Capital, and Oqal Angel Investment Network

Based on the company’s value in the sale to Uber, those early investors have seen roughly a 100x return on their original investment.

Here’s the pitch-deck from those first presentations that began Careem’s journey more than six years ago:

*This post has been updated to more accurately reflect the rise in value attributable Careem’s earliest investors. Shares have gained roughly 100x in value, while the company’s overall valuation has risen even more.

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Self-driving cars may be decades away, but safety features common on Tesla and Toyota vehicles are already saving lives, a new Consumer Reports survey says

Self-driving cars will significantly reduce accidents by eliminating human error, according to experts and companies developing autonomous-driving technology. But full autonomy, which would allow a car to drive anywhere without human supervision, is likely years, if not decades, away.

Despite the challenges of refining autonomous-driving systems, auto companies are already using some of the technology that will underpin them to prevent accidents today, according to a new Consumer Reports survey.

Read more: The most reliable sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks for 2019

The survey focused on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which include features that can alert drivers to vehicles or pedestrians around them, keep vehicles from drifting out of their lane, and apply the brakes to prevent or reduce the impact of a collision. According to survey responses on around 72,000 vehicles, 57% of respondents said at least one ADAS feature had prevented a collision for their vehicle.

Respondents said blind-spot warning, which uses visual or audible signals to alert drivers about vehicles that are outside of their immediate field of vision, was the most effective ADAS feature, as 60% said it had helped prevent a crash.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said rear cross-traffic warning and rear automatic emergency braking, which alert drivers to vehicles and pedestrians behind them and apply the brakes to avoid collisions, had helped prevent a crash, and 47% said the same about forward-collision warning and front automatic emergency braking, which serve the same functions for objects and vehicles in front of a car.

The findings from the Consumer Reports survey align with a study released this month by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), which found that cars with ADAS features were around 25%-50% less likely to be involved in some kinds of accidents than those without them.

Consumer Reports highlighted Tesla and Toyota for making many ADAS features standard on their 2019 models. Twenty automakers have promised to make automatic emergency braking standard on their vehicles by 2022, though some, like General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, don’t include it as a standard feature on any of their 2019 model-year vehicles, according to Consumer Reports.

Read Consumer Reports’ full story here »

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