The Treasury Department said it will not give Exxon Mobil a waiver to drill for oil in Russia despite U.S. sanctions against the country.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday in a statement that the administration, “will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions,” according to the Associated Press.
Exxon was seeking a waiver in order to continue drilling in the Black Sea, the AP reports. The company previously had an agreement with Russian oil company PAO Rosneft.
Exxon would not confirm whether or not it was seeking the waiver at all earlier this month, Reuters reports. Exxon’s former chief executive Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lobbied against the sanctions in 2014.
The move comes as the FBI and Congressional intelligence committees are investigating Russian hacking that allegedly attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible contact between Russian officials and members of President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Wozniak, who co-founded Apple over 40 years ago with the late Steve Jobs, remains a revered figure in Silicon Valley. Although he is no longer connected with Apple, he keeps busy making appearances at big tech conferences to inspire inventors, serves as chief scientist for the enterprise data storage startup Primary Data, and even found time to cha-cha-cha on the TV show Dancing With The Stars a few years ago.
On Friday, Wozniak returns to the upcoming Silicon Valley Comic Con event where pop culture fans, celebrities, and technologists will celebrate “the nerd side of things,” as he put it. In this edited interview with Fortune, Wozniak discusses how his former company is acting like Microsoft, the influence of money in Silicon Valley, and being an introvert in the social networking era.
Fortune: How has the tech landscape changed over the years?
Wozniak: When Steve and I started Apple we were so naïve and young. We didn’t know anything about business. We didn’t know that it’s often the case that you start a company and then you get bought out as an exit strategy. We thought that you start at home, you make a product, and become profitable so you have your company forever. As long as it makes a profit, it never goes away. That’s how I thought companies worked. Boy, it’s a different story now in Silicon Valley.
I think there are an awful lot of people who have a quick exit plan like selling the business to another big company to get enough money to buy a house in San Francisco. Then they move on to the next one. There are many companies that are started by business people and not engineers. Engineers say, “What would be a cool product? What would make the world greater and better?” That’s where I come from.
Engineering is your line of work.
I do not invest. I don’t do that stuff. I didn’t want to be near money, because it could corrupt your values.
What are your thoughts on the rise of engineers as rock stars in Silicon Valley?
Mostly it’s because of how much money they have—and I went the other way. I did not want to be one of them. I invested early in things like museums in the city I love, San Jose. I was born there, and I have a street named after me there because of it. I really didn’t want to be in that super “more than you could ever need” category.
Did you ever think when you were starting Apple that software companies like Facebook would become so dominant?
Well, there was Microsoft. I was just on CNBC and they were asking, “Oh, my gosh. Apple wants to make this software and license it for self-driving cars.” Well, Apple’s becoming Microsoft. Microsoft had an operating system that was their crown jewel and they licensed it to everybody. Apple said no—they had to make the hardware. Hardware and software have to go together [in computers], but not so in cars.
What is your take on commercial space travel and people like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk getting involved?
Nobody expected the iPhone. Nobody expected Google. Nobody expected Facebook and Twitter would be these great things. It is really hard to predict with a spreadsheet what makes sense, otherwise big companies that already existed would have created those things. Of course SpaceX [Musk’s space startup] and Blue Origin [Bezos’ space startup], they’re not coming out of nowhere, but they’re coming out of individuals trying to do something very risky.
It is very risky, but it is fascinating to watch what these companies are doing.
Yeah, space exploration comes down to engineering and scientific knowledge. It does take a certain amount of funding, but NASA’s budget seems so small for what they bring us. It just seems so small that I’m not surprised that large private players can make a difference too.
You recently said that companies like Apple and Google would be even bigger in 2075 than they are now. Do you think these companies will do so by expanding into other areas, like how Google and Apple are moving into healthcare?
I don’t know. Every company should do what they’re good at. There are actors who are just good at acting. Everyone shouldn’t try to do every single thing in the world, and Apple’s big thing, really, is more about protecting the brand. Making products a certain way that protects your brand. That’s one role. That’s one key role in the world, and it doesn’t mean making every single product. Everyone who owns Apple shares just says, “No, no, no, you gotta have something new now.” Well that’s Silicon Valley in that you’re always chasing the next new thing and you never get to stop. I mean unless you’re somewhat smart.
Why is your Twitter feed essentially a timeline of places you’ve visited and restaurants you’ve eaten at?
I am not the right person for social networks. I was never social in my life. I am not good at socializing in person.
I skipped Facebook and I skipped Twitter when it came out, because I’d wind up with everybody asking me to be a friend. I have 5,000 Facebook friends I don’t know, and I’m going to scan what they’re doing in their lives everyday? It doesn’t work well for me because I won’t just cut it down to the only 100 people I really know.
But I found Foursquare. I was actually in Spain and some young kids introduced me to Foursquare, so I started checking in. I thought, “My wife will be able to see where I am.” But if I check into a restaurant and somebody comments on it, I get that comment in an email from Facebook. So I typically have 100 to 200 Facebook inquires a day, and some of those I go in and answer when I feel my answer’s important.
It’s interesting that you prefer Foursquare over other social networks.
It’s kind of one directional, and Twitter can be one-directional. To tell you the truth, I admire what Twitter is and what it’s done for the world. And I admire Facebook, but I’m a little scared of the power Facebook and Google get and I avoid them more than most people. My calendar is on Google and about nothing else of me wants to touch Google. When I get these advertisements all over the place and they’re exactly what I’ve been looking at recently, you’re living in my world. You’re making it stale. That’s not the adventurous world of going and watching a new movie with superheroes achieving victory.
Well, that’s a realistic application of artificial intelligence today.
That’s today’s level of simulated intelligence to kind of knowing you. The funny thing is, everyone in popular culture movies has to be an individual—to be above the others, to be super. And that’s how we think of ourselves as human beings. Well what am I? I’m what’s in my brain. I have my memories, my feelings, my way of thinking of the world. And that’s who I am.
On April 13, NASA made a startling announcement: Underneath its icy surface, Saturn’s moon Enceladus may be home to a chemical reaction that could provide the right conditions for life. “This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” said the space agency’s Thomas Zurbuchen in a statement. The definition of “habitable” depends very much on the kind of life you’re talking about (especially when the potentially life-supporting activity is happening underwater). Human beings aren’t going to be setting up shop on Enceladus anytime soon. Which means we are, for now, stuck on Earth, with its changing climate and all the rest.
It’s a good thing, then, that automakers are getting serious about electric vehicles (EVs). Environmentalists have long hailed such cars as a greener alternative to gas-powered cars. But their viability has been limited by issues like driving range, affordability and the sometimes questionable decision-making of major automakers. General Motors’ Chevrolet Bolt represents a sea-change in all these areas: it’ll do over 200 miles on a single charge, it starts at just $35,000 before federal and state incentives, and the company once accused of killing the electric car is making Bolts readily available to as many customers as it can.
Driving the Bolt feels simultaneously transformative and prosaic. At first, you can’t help but think you’re in a car somehow delivered from the future. I became convinced that EVs are primed to explode in popularity, especially once people realize how much fun they can be to drive. Unlike in a gas-powered car, an all-eletric delivers power the instant you ask for it. The Bolt is like a zippy sports car in economical suiting. And, as with hybrids before it, you start to make a game out of recharging the battery via the Bolt’s regenerative breaking feature that converts some energy into useable electricity.
But after a while, all that world-changing mumbo-jumbo fades into the background. Once you get a feel for it, the Bolt drives like your typical sporty crossover. (One difference: There’s no engine shudder at high speeds, making it easy to absent-mindedly hit the upper 80s in a 55-mile-per-hour zone.) It’s a smooth ride, it’s unexpectedly roomy, and its infotainment system works well with your smartphone.
The Bolt isn’t a head-turner from the outside. That’s not to say it’s ugly, but rather there’s nothing about it that screams “I’m from the future,” a design pitfall that afflicts many electric and even hybrid vehicles. (It looks nothing like, say, GM’s vision for its ground-breaking Volt concept from a few years back.) That, says lead designer Stuart Norris, was an intentional choice: “We very conscious of not wanting to make the car look like a science fair project, which I think many other electrified entries have a tendency to do.”
As accomplished as the Bolt is, it may not be an ideal choice for everybody—the case for any of the currently available EVs, no matter the nameplate. I couldn’t exactly throw an extension cable down to the street from my fourth-floor Brooklyn apartment, for instance. Battery performance can be severely impacted by extreme temperatures, so the Bolt might be fine in San Diego, but less capable in Buffalo. Even with 200-plus miles of advertised range, road trips will require some logistical planning and, probably, compromises.
The Bolt has hidden costs, too. While it’s possible to recharge it via a standard outlet, most buyers will probably want to spend the extra money to install a 240-volt charging station, which will dramatically reduce the recharge time. (The station costs $699 from a Chevy dealership, plus the cost of installation.) On a standard outlet, the Bolt sucks up 4 miles per hour of charging and on a 240 system it charges 25 miles per hour.
But for many drivers, EVs like the Bolt are an increasingly practical choice. The car’s 200-mile range is more than enough for daily commuters, who might also appreciate its one-pedal driving mode in stop-and-go traffic. There are now more than 15,000 charging stations throughout the U.S., and that number is growing. Just this week, the National Park Service announced that it’s partnering with BMW to install chargers in parks across the country. And if anything good came out of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, it’s that the company has agreed to invest $2 billion in EV chargers across the country.
Some observers have called the “greenness” of EVs like the Bolt into question. They raise good points: If the source of your electricity is dirty (such as coal), then you’re just shifting the pollution point from your internal-combustion engine to some nearby power plant. The mineral mining required to make the batteries on which these cars rely have their own environmental consequences, too. That said, it’s hard to conclude that mass adoption of EVs wouldn’t be a net positive for the planet—even if they’re not necessarily a silver bullet for climate change.
Much has been written about the Bolt representing a make-good for GM’s ill-fated EV1. But that misses the point. The big question about EVs is how much consumers want them. Data that show interest in EVs is remaining steady even as fuel prices drop. That means the race to build mass market electrics might actually add up to meaningful change. For consumers who have really been waiting for an electric car that’s both practical and affordable, the Bolt is the most convincing option so far.
(DETROIT) — General Motors has stopped doing business in Venezuela after authorities took control of its only factory there in what GM called an illegal judicial seizure of its assets.
The plant was confiscated on Wednesday as anti-government protesters clashed with authorities in a country that is roiling in economic troubles such as food shortages and triple-digit inflation.
The Detroit automaker said in a statement Thursday that other assets such as vehicles were taken from the plant, causing irreparable damage to the company.
GM says the plant was taken in disregard of its right to due process. The company says it will defend itself legally and that it’s confident that justice eventually will prevail.
GM has about 2,700 workers in the troubled country, where it’s been the market leader for over 35 years. It also has 79 dealers that employ 3,900 people, and its parts suppliers make up more than half of Venezuela’s auto parts market, the company said.
If the government permits it, workers will get separation benefits “arising from the termination of employment relationships due to causes beyond the parties’ control,” the GM statement said.
Dealers will continue to service vehicles and provide parts, the company said.
GM’s Venezuelan operations have been a drag on earnings for several years. In the second quarter of 2015, the company took a $720 million charge for currency devaluation and asset valuation write-downs as the economy faltered.
South American operations, which include Venezuela, account for a relatively small portion of GM’s earnings and sales. Last year the company lost $400 million before taxes in South America, but as a whole the company made a pretax profit of $12.5 billion. GM sold just over 583,000 vehicles in the region last year, but that was only about 6 percent of its total sales.
In its 2016 fourth-quarter earnings release, the company said that its South America region “remains challenged from macro-economic and political standpoints.”
Companies have been cutting operations in Venezuela as a result of runaway inflation and strict currency controls. Last May, tire maker Bridgestone sold its business there after six decades of operating in the country.
Bridgestone joined other foreign multinationals including Halliburton, Ford Motor and Procter & Gamble who have either slowed or abandoned their investments in Venezuela.
Shares of General Motors Co. rose slightly in premarket trading.
Well this is a bit odd. Attorney Lisa Schifferle writing for the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer & Business education division issued a warning on April 18 titled “There’s no Nintendo Switch emulator.” That has been, and as far as I can tell continues to be, a true statement, though the FTC isn’t generally in the business of issuing warnings about video games.
There’s apparently a noteworthy scam making the rounds, wherein people are either going looking for counterfeit software on dubious websites, or being approached by scammers peddling nonsense in the guise of a Nintendo-fied simulacrum.
In a blog post that seems at time to knowingly wink at readers amidst its stern language, Schifferle acknowledges the Switch’s supply scarcity at the moment. It’s a problem. Buyers have either been paying ridiculously inflated scalper prices off auction sites for Nintendo’s mobile-TV hybrid game system, or paying retailers like GameStop exorbitant sums for “bundles” with take it or leave it bric-a-brac.
Thus the impatient (or just plain mischievous) may be lured by promises of software that runs Switch games on a computer. “But there is no legit Nintendo Switch emulator. It’s a scam,” writes Schifferle, noting all the other nefarious things that can install themselves surreptitiously if you download fake software and give it carte blanche. (Not to be confused with fake fake software, which, like fake fake news, would in fact be real.)
Don’t be deceived by stories you may have seen about people running The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at ultra-high-definition resolutions. There are two versions of Breath of the Wild, one for Wii U and one for the Switch. That’s because a Wii U emulator exists; a Switch emulator doesn’t. (To say nothing of the grayish legality of emulators in general, which is another matter.)
Here’s the FTC’s list of guidelines to avoid the scam, all arguably obvious enough not to bother repeating, but presented here because that last one made me smile.
Don’t download anything that says it’s a Nintendo Switch emulator.
Don’t complete a survey to get an “unlock code.” That’s a red flag for a scam.
Keep your security software current. Set it to update automatically. Installing unknown programs can lead to malware.
Play Nintendo Switch at your friend’s house until you’re able to buy the real one yourself.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement on Wednesday.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that O’Reilly and Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox paid a total of $13 million to stop women from speaking out against him or pursuing litigation over sexual harassment.
O’Reilly, who has worked for Fox News for 21 years, has denied the harassment claims have merit, and his attorney denounced the accusations as a “brutal campaign of character assassination.”
In the midst of backlash over the allegations, O’Reilly left for a few weeks of vacation, which he said had been scheduled for months. He had been expected to return to his show on April 24. The new Fox News primetime lineup will feature Tucker Carlson Tonight in O’Reilly’s former time slot at 8 p.m., CNN reported.
“This decision follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel,” 21st Century Fox said in an email to employees, which was obtained by CNN. “By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news. In fact, his success by any measure is indisputable.”
The situation mirrors the ousting of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes last year after several female employees accused him of sexual harassment.
“Lastly, and most importantly, we want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect,” the 21st Century Fox email said Wednesday.
(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) — The Middle East’s biggest airline says it is reducing flights to the United States because of a drop in demand caused by tougher U.S. security measures and attempts by the Trump administration to ban travelers from a number of Muslim-majority nations.
Emirates said on Wednesday that the reductions will affect five of its 12 U.S. destinations, starting next month. It called the move “a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand” in the three months since President Donald Trump took office.
Twice daily Emirates flights to Boston, Los Angles and Seattle will be reduced to once a day. Daily flights to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando will be pared down to five per week.
The CEO of United Airlines says no one will be fired over the dragging of a man off a plane — including himself.
CEO Oscar Munoz said Tuesday that he takes full responsibility “for making this right,” and he promised more details later this month after United finishes a review of its policies on overbooked flights.
Company executives said it’s too soon to know if the incident is hurting ticket sales.
United has been pummeled on social media — #BoycottUnited is a popular hashtag — and late-night television. Through Tuesday, its shares have fallen 4.4 percent since Flight 3411, wiping out nearly $1 billion in market value, although some other airline stocks also declined in the same period.
After the market closed Monday, United reported a $96 million first-quarter profit, down 69 percent from a year earlier largely because of higher costs for fuel, labor and maintenance. The revenue picture was looking better — evidence was growing that after two years of falling average fares, United will be able to push prices higher this year.
On a conference call to discuss those results, Munoz started by apologizing again for the April 9 scene on a United Express plane at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. David Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky physician, was bloodied and dragged off the plane by Chicago airport officers who had been summoned by United employees when Dao wouldn’t give up his seat. The three officers have all been suspended.
Munoz and other executives vowed to treat customers with dignity, and said that what happened to Dao will never happen again.
Munoz’s early statements on the incident were widely criticized. He initially supported employees and blamed Dao, calling him “disruptive and belligerent.” On Tuesday, he was asked if the company ever considered firing anyone, including management.
“I’m sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally,” said Munoz. He noted that the board of United Continental Holdings Inc. has supported him.
“It was a system failure across various areas,” Munoz continued. “There was never a consideration for firing an employee.”
Dao’s lawyers have taken steps that foreshadow a lawsuit against the airline and the city of Chicago, which operates O’Hare Airport.
United announced two rule changes last week, including saying that it will no longer call police to remove passengers from overbooked planes. It is not clear whether United oversold Flight 3411, but the flight became overbooked when four Republic Airline employees showed up after passengers had boarded and demanded seats so they could commute to their next assignment, a United Express flight the next morning.
Some politicians and consumer advocates have called for a ban on overselling flights. Munoz declined to address that or other possible changes until the airline finishes a review by April 30.
Even in normal times, airlines closely — even daily — scrutinize numbers such as advance sales and occupancy levels on planes. Yet United officials said they couldn’t measure whether the dragging has affected their business.
“It’s really too early for us to tell anything about bookings and in particular last week because it was the week before Easter, that’s normally a very low booking period,” said United President Scott Kirby. He said that United’s forecast for the April-through-June quarter has not changed.
Limited competition at many major airports could blunt any nascent boycott of United. Wall Street analysts have been mostly silent about the Dao incident, perhaps believing that it won’t have a noticeable impact on United profits. They did not ask United management any questions about it on Tuesday’s call.
Barclays analyst Brandon Oglenski told Munoz that “accidents happen … hopefully, we can put this behind us.” Back in December, the analyst had called United Continental the “most compelling stock” in the airline sector. The consensus estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by FactSet for United’s full-year earnings has risen by 3 cents a share since the Dao incident.
Munoz said he has received “a lot of support” from United’s high-end customers, although “obviously a lot of people have ideas and thoughts about how we can make things better.”