Japanese prosecutors want Ghosn to sign confession, says son: paper

PARIS (Reuters) – Japanese prosecutors want Carlos Ghosn, the detained auto executive who oversaw an alliance that sold 10 million vehicles a year, to confess to financial misconduct, his son told France’s weekly Journal du Dimanche (JDD).

FILE PHOTO: Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, attends a press conference on the second press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Ghosn has been held in a Tokyo detention center since his Nov. 19 arrest on allegations of under-reporting his income at Nissan Motor Co Ltd. He is also accused of aggravated breach of mistrust in transferring personal investment losses to Nissan, from which he has since been ousted as chairman.

Ghosn denies the charges against him.

Anthony Ghosn, 24, has not been allowed by Japanese authorities to see his father, who he said had lost 10 kilograms in weight eating three bowls of rice a day in detention.

In his first interview since Japanese prosecutors seized his father as he stepped off his private jet, Anthony Ghosn said his father would fight to clear his name.

Asked if his father spoke Japanese, Anthony Ghosn said he did not. “The paradox is that the confession they want him to sign is written exclusively in Japanese.”

Ghosn’s arrest marked a dramatic fall for a business leader once hailed for rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.

The executive has been treated like others in detention, held in a small, chilly room, and denied a lawyer during interrogation.

Ghosn’s detention has drawn scrutiny upon the legal system in Japan, where legal experts say prosecutors often try to force confessions from suspects. Deputy prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Shin Kukimoto, last month said no such method was being used with Ghosn.

Anthony Ghosn told the JDD that his father’s lawyer has still not seen the prosecutor’s full case file.

“From what I understand, in the Japanese system, when a person is held in detention, the prosecutor reveals little by little the elements that he has at his disposal. On each occasion, my father then shares these details with his lawyers.”

Ghosn is set to make his first public appearance in seven weeks at a Tokyo court on Tuesday after he requested an open hearing to hear the reason for his continued detention.

“For the first time, he will be able to answer the allegations against him, to give his version of events,” Anthony Ghosn said, adding his father would appear in prison attire and be handcuffed.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Susan Thomas

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Iowa Voters Are Asking Elizabeth Warren About *That* DNA Test

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — It was the first question from the audience here at just the second stop on the presidential bid she had launched earlier this week.

“Sen. Warren,” said a woman in the crowd on Saturday morning. “My question to you: Why did you undergo the DNA testing and give Donald Trump more fodder to be a bully?”

“Yeahhh, well,” the senator began.

There was some laughter as Elizabeth Warren, midway through a three-day tour through the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, tried to tackle a question that has been dogging her presidential campaign months before it even began: the DNA test she made public in October, weeks before a critical midterm election for Democrats, to prove what she described as “Native American ancestry” tied to the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized tribe of 350,000 based in Warren’s home state of Oklahoma.

The test found Warren’s ancestry was mostly European, but also that she most likely had a Native American ancestor some 6-10 generations ago.

To the disbelief of Democratic strategists, Warren did not contact or consult leaders from the Cherokee Nation before releasing the DNA test, which was criticized by tribal leaders as “inappropriate and wrong.”

[Read more: Elizabeth Warren Took A Genetic Test And Says The Results Prove She Has Native American Ancestry]

Here in Iowa, a state named for the Ioway Tribe and which is now home to more than 14,000 Native Americans, Warren seemed prepared to address the question, though she did not express any regret over the way she and her aides handled the test.

“I’m glad you asked that question. I genuinely am, and I’m glad for us to have a chance to talk about it,” she said.

“I am not a person of color,” she continued. “I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship — and I respect that difference.”

That a voter raised the question herself suggests Warren’s ancestry is an issue that has extended far beyond the Washington- and New York-based press — thanks, in part, to President Trump’s repeated references to Warren as “Pocahontas.”

Just this Thursday, the president shared a graphic on Twitter from the conservative website the Daily Wire, mocking Warren’s DNA test.

Warren told the crowd in Sioux City that as a young girl in Oklahoma, “like a lot of folks in Oklahoma, we heard family stories of our ancestry.”

It wasn’t until her first run for office, during her 2012 Senate campaign in Massachusetts, she said, that “Republicans honed in” on the fact that she had self-identified as Native American while a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

“A lot of ugly stuff,” she said of the Republican attacks. “And so my decision was, I’m just gonna put it all out there. Took a while, but just put it all out there.”

“It’s out there — it’s online. It’s all there.”

“Now, I can’t stop Donald Trump,” she added. “I can’t stop him from hurling racial insults. I don’t have the power to do that.”

“Yes you can!” a woman yelled to applause.

“But what I can do is I can be in this fight for all of our families,” Warren said, quickly pivoting to the message she has driven here again and again during her first presidential campaign swing, which is set to continue with a series events this weekend in Storm Lake, Des Moines, and Ankeny.

“Ultimately what 2020 is going to be about is not about my family,” she said. “It’s about the tens of millions of families across this country who just want a level playing field.”

No breakthrough in US shutdown talks despite ‘productive’ meeting

No breakthrough in US shutdown talks despite ‘productive’ meeting

WASHINGTON – Senior Trump administration officials met on Saturday with Democratic congressional staffers but failed to break a deadlock over a proposed border wall and end a two-week-old partial government…

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No breakthrough in US shutdown talks despite ‘productive’ meeting

WASHINGTON – Senior Trump administration officials met on Saturday with Democratic congressional staffers but failed to break a deadlock over a proposed border wall and end a two-week-old partial government…

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Jamaica developing long-term solutions for coffee industry

Jamaica developing long-term solutions for coffee industry

KINGSTON – The Jamaica government says it is examining long-term solutions that will place the coffee industry in a better position in the future. Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister…

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Jamaica developing long-term solutions for coffee industry

KINGSTON – The Jamaica government says it is examining long-term solutions that will place the coffee industry in a better position in the future. Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister…

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Colombia’s Cano Limon pipeline halted by first bomb attack of 2019

BOGOTA, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol has halted the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline after it was damaged in a bomb attack, spilling crude into two streams in Norte de Santander province, the company said.

The Friday explosion in the rural area of Campo Giles, in Tibu municipality, is the first bombing of Colombian oil infrastructure in 2019. Last year there were 89 attacks in just three provinces, many attributed to leftist rebels.

Crude spilled into two neighboring creeks and on surrounding vegetation, Ecopetrol said in a statement, but the spill is now under control.

The explosion did not affect exports or production in the Cano Limon oil field in northern Arauca province, operated by Occidental Petroleum.

The 773-kilometer (480-mile) Cano Limon pipeline was out of operation for most of 2018 because of attacks, which the military often attributes to the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

The Cano Limon pipeline has capacity to transport up to 210,000 barrels per day of crude oil.

The insurgent group, which frequently attacks the pipeline, has around 2,000 fighters and opposes oil and mining activities by multinational companies, saying they take advantage of natural resources without benefiting Colombians.

President Ivan Duque, who took office in August, has said he will not continue peace talks with the ELN initiated by his predecessor until the rebels stop kidnappings and all criminal activity. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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PSA: File your US tax return before scammers steal your refund

It’s tax season! You know what that means? It’s scamming season, too.

You might have heard this story before. A scammer starts by spoofing an email pretending to be the chief executive of a company, angrily demanding that someone in accounting or human resources immediately sends over their employees’ W-2 forms “or there will be trouble!” The person doesn’t think twice, not wanting to get told off, and emails back the forms, which spell out exactly how much the employees’ earned and how much the company withheld from your wages in tax for the year.

Lo and behold, they’ve just handed over the crown jewels for committing fraud to criminals.

Then, after the scammers steal your W-2 forms, they file your tax returns as though they were you. By fudging the numbers, they can trick the Internal Revenue Service into turning over a tax refund — which then they cash in, using none other than the information from your stole W-2 form.

All the while, you’re putting off doing your taxes until late March because the thought of doing them is so depressing that you literally need months of mental preparation before you start crunching the numbers.

These so-called “W-2 scams” are far too easy to carry out. They’re easy for scammers to obtain and the scammers go undetected for weeks or months, and the IRS doesn’t tell you when your tax return has been filed, meaning anyone can do it without your knowledge.

Scamming consumers out of their tax refunds costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year — and the IRS knows full well how damaging these scams can be. Earlier this year, a government watchdog said that the IRS could do a lot more to prevent W-2 scams in the future — not least telling taxpayers when their filings have been accepted, so that it can be withheld and refunds are protected in case the taxpayer flags it as fraudulent.

Right now, the U.S. is in the midst of a government shutdown — and that’s affecting the IRS. Normally, the IRS lets you start submitting your tax returns by the end of January. This year, it’s not clear when taxpayers can start submitting their filings. Worse, because of the shutdown, any refunds are expected to be delayed.

But it doesn’t mean you can drag your feet and put things off. Now’s a better time than ever to get prepared.

If you haven’t already received your W-2 by mail, you’ll receive it from your employer the end of January. (Many companies these days let you download your W-2 form early through Workday, if you’re subscribed, or other internal corporate portals.) Once you’ve received all of the documents and paperwork you need to file, sit down with a pot of coffee and get the return done.

Once the IRS flings open the doors, file your return as soon as possible.

You should check before you file using the IRS’ filing status checker to see if your tax return has already been submitted. If it has, contact your company and speak to the IRS to file a certain form to get it voided.

Remember, in security, humans are the weakest link. And that’s never been more true than during tax season.

French ‘yellow vests’ keep up pressure on unrepentant Macron

French ‘yellow vests’ keep up pressure on unrepentant Macron

PARIS – French ‘yellow vest’ protesters marched through Paris and other cities on Saturday to highlight their struggle to make ends meet, a day after President Emmanuel Macron’s government hardened its…

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French ‘yellow vests’ keep up pressure on unrepentant Macron

PARIS – French ‘yellow vest’ protesters marched through Paris and other cities on Saturday to highlight their struggle to make ends meet, a day after President Emmanuel Macron’s government hardened its…

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Hire faster, work happier: Startups target employment with AI and engagement tools

If you have a job today, there’s a good chance you personally reached out to your employer and interviewed with other humans to get it. Now that you’ve been there a while, it’s also likely the workday feels more like a long slog than the fulfilling career move you had envisioned.

But if today’s early-stage startups have their way, your next employment experience could be quite different.

First, forget the networking and interview gauntlet. Instead, let an AI-enabled screening program reach out about a job you don’t seem obviously qualified to do. Or, rather than talk to a company’s employees, wait for them to play some online games instead. If you play similarly, they may decide to hire you.

Once you have the job, software will also make you more efficient and happier at your work.

An AI-driven software platform will deliver regular “nudges,” offering customized suggestions to make you a more effective worker. If you’re feeling burned out, head online to text or video chat with a coach or therapist. Or perhaps you’ll just be happier in your job now that your employer is delivering regular tokens of appreciation.

Those are a few of the ways early-stage startups are looking to change the status quo of job-seeking and employment. While employment is a broad category, an analysis of Crunchbase funding data for the space shows a high concentration of activity in two key areas: AI-driven hiring software and tools to improve employee engagement.

Below, we look at where the money’s going and how today’s early-stage startups could play a role in transforming the work experience of tomorrow.

Artificial intelligence

To begin, let us reflect that we are at a strange inflection point for AI and employment. Our artificially intelligent overlords are not smart enough to actually do our jobs. Nonetheless, they have strong opinions about whether we’re qualified to do them ourselves.

It is at this peculiar point that the alchemic mix of AI software, recruiting-based business models and venture capital are coming together to build startups.

In 2018, at least 43 companies applying AI or machine learning to some facet of employment have raised seed or early-stage funding, according to Crunchbase data. In the chart below, we look at a few startups that have secured rounds, along with their backers and respective business models:

At present, even AI boosters don’t tout the technology as a cure-all for troubles plaguing the talent recruitment space. While it’s true humans are biased and flawed when it comes to evaluating job candidates, artificially intelligent software suffers from many of the same bugs. For instance, Amazon scrapped its AI recruiting tool developed in-house because it exhibited bias against women.

That said, it’s still early innings. Over the next few years, startups will be actively tweaking their software to improve performance and reduce bias.

Happiness and engagement

Once the goal of recruiting the best people is achieved, the next step is ensuring they stay and thrive.

Usually, a paycheck goes a long way to accomplishing the goal of staying. But in case that’s not enough, startups are busily devising a host of tools for employers to boost engagement and fight the scourge of burnout.

In the chart below, we look at a few of the companies that received early-stage funding this year to build out software platforms and services aimed at making people happier and more effective at work:

The most heavily funded of the early-stage crop looks to be Peakon, which offers a software platform for measuring employee engagement and collecting feedback. The Danish firm has raised $33 million to date to fund its expansion.

London-based BioBeats is another up-and-comer aimed at the “corporate wellness” market, with digital tools to help employees track stress levels and other health-related metrics. The company has raised $7 million to date to help keep those stress levels in check.

Early-stage indicators

Early-stage funding activity tends to be an indicator of areas with somewhat low adoption rates today that are poised to take off dramatically. For employment, that means we can likely expect to see AI-based recruitment and software-driven engagement tools become more widespread in the coming years.

What does that mean for job seekers and paycheck toilers? Expect to spend more of your time interfacing with intelligent software. Apparently, it’ll make you more employable, and happier, too.

Streaming TV may never be as simple or inexpensive as it is now

Streaming TV may never again be as simple, or as affordable, as it is now.

Disney and WarnerMedia are each launching their own streaming services in 2019 in a challenge to Netflix’s dominance. Netflix viewers will no longer be able to watch hit movies such as Black Panther or Moana, which will soon reside on Disney’s subscription service. WarnerMedia, a unit of AT&T, will also soon have its own service to showcase its library of blockbuster films and HBO series.

Families will have to decide between paying more each month or losing access to some of their favourite dramas, comedies, musicals and action flicks.

“There’s definitely a lot of change coming,” said Paul Verna at eMarketer, a digital research company. “People will have more choices of what to stream, but at the same time the market is already fragmented and intimidating and it is only going to get more so.”

Netflix viewers will no longer be able to watch hit movies such as Black Panther or Moana, which will soon reside on Disney’s subscription service. (Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios-Disney via The Associated Press)

Media companies are seeking to capitalize on the popularity and profitability of streaming. But by fragmenting the market, they’re also narrowing the once wide selection that fuelled the rise of internet-based video. About 55 percent of U.S. households now subscribe to paid streaming video services, up from just 10 percent in 2009, according to research firm Deloitte.

Just as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime tempted people to “cut the cord” by cancelling traditional cable TV packages, the newer services are looking to dismember those more-inclusive options.

Disney Plus, WarnerMedia and others set to launch

Disney Plus is set to launch late next year with new Marvel and Star Wars programming, along with its library of animated and live-action movies and shows. It hasn’t announced pricing yet, but Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an August call with analysts that it will likely be less than Netflix, which runs $8 to $14 US a month, since its library will be smaller.

AT&T plans a three-tier offering from WarnerMedia, with a slate of new and library content centred around the existing HBO streaming app. No word on pricing yet.

Individual channels, such as Fox, ESPN, CBS and Showtime, are also getting into the act. Research group TDG predicts that every major TV network will launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service in the next five years.

Netflix and others have invested heavily in original movies and TV shows to keep their customers loyal. Netflix, for instance, said Wednesday that 45 million subscriber accounts worldwide watched the Sandra Bullock thriller Bird Box during its first seven days on the service, the biggest first-week success of any movie made for the company’s nearly 12-year-old streaming service.

Netflix said 45 million subscriber accounts worldwide watched the Sandra Bullock thriller Bird Box during its first seven days on the service, the biggest first-week success of any movie made for the company’s nearly 12-year-old streaming service. (Merrick Morton/Netflix via The Associated Press)

That first-week audience means nearly a third of Netflix’s 137 million subscribers watched the movie from Dec. 21 through Dec. 27 — a holiday-season stretch when many people aren’t working and have more free time.

But Netflix, Hulu and others may soon have to do without programs and movies licensed from their soon-to-be rivals. In December, Netflix paid a reported $100 million to continue licensing Friends from WarnerMedia.

Data and dollars

Why are media companies looking to get in? Data and dollars. Sure, they get money when they sell their programs to other services like Netflix. But starting their own service allows networks and studios access to valuable data about who is bingeing on their shows.

For services with ad-based options, that data translates into more dollars from advertisers. And services that rely only on subscription revenues, media companies can use the data to better tailor their offerings for individual tastes, helping to draw in more subscribers.

To get a full slate of programming, TV watchers may soon have to subscribe to several services instead of just Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. (Dan Goodman/The Associated Press)

“I think all media companies are coming to grips with the reality that you better establish a relationship directly with your audiences,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at an analyst conference earlier this month.

The business model that some networks and content companies are currently using, distributing their TV shows and movies only by licensing them to streaming platforms, is getting “disrupted aggressively” as more companies launch their own services, said Stephenson, whose company acquired WarnerMedia in June.

Forrester analyst Jim Nail compares this moment to the “Cambrian explosion,” a historic era when plant and animal species rapidly multiplied after Ice Age glaciers receded.

“Big brands like Disney have to evaluate: Are we only going to access this market by licensing our content to Netflix, Hulu and others?” he said. “Or, can we go direct to the consumer with our own service?”

But a multiplicity of streaming services could easily overwhelm or confuse consumers. To get a full slate of programming, TV watchers may soon have to subscribe to several services instead of just one or two.

Tiered services to become more common

Among those options will be services like Netflix and Hulu that offer a wide range of video from a variety of sources; cable-like “skinny bundles” such as FuboTV, Sling and YouTube TV that offer a variety of live channels; and channel- or network-specific services like Disney Plus.

Consider just AT&T’s plan to launch a three-tiered service this year centred on HBO. An entry-level bundle will offer mostly movies; a second, slightly more expensive tier will include original programming and newer movies. A third and still more expensive offering would add more WarnerMedia entertainment such as Friends.

In December, Netflix paid a reported $100 million US to continue licensing the TV sitcom Friends from WarnerMedia. (Warner Bros./Canadian Press)

The cost of multiple streaming services could quickly approach the average cost of a cable bill — not counting the cost of internet service. That’s around $107 per month, according to Leichtman Research Group.

“It’s unlikely any of the services individually can charge more than $10 per month,” Forrester’s Nail said. “The great unknown is how many individual streaming services people are willing to sign up for.”

Cable-like “skinny bundles” such as FuboTV, Sling and YouTube TV offer a variety of live channels. (Reed Saxon/The Associated Press)

Companies are already trying to tame this chaos by bundling multiple streaming services together. Amazon Prime customers can add-on subscriptions to HBO, Showtime or Starz. Roku and Chromecast viewers can access their different services from a central place; Roku said Wednesday it will start selling in-app access to Showtime, Starz and other channels as well.

How should consumers deal with all the coming change?

“Be patient,” said Michael Greeson, president of research group TDG. “We’re in a time of dramatic change for the TV and video business. There’ll be great benefits, and question marks and consequences.”

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