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Doctor agrees with Biden that Facebook is ‘killing people’ with Covid misinformation

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Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, founding director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University, told CNBC, that, medically, she agrees with President Joe Biden‘s assertion that platforms like Facebook are killing people by allowing Covid-19 vaccine misinformation on their services.

“I think social media is playing a big role in amplifying misinformation, which is leading to people not taking the vaccine, which is killing them,” Bhadelia said. “It’s the honest truth. Covid, right now, is a vaccine-preventable disease.”

Bhadelia cited findings by the Kaiser Family Fund survey that found 54% of Americans either believe in or cannot distinguish whether a common Covid vaccine myth is fact or fiction. 

The U.S. is grappling with a lagging vaccination rate and a rise in infections. All 50 states have reported a jump in Covid cases over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. is seeing an average of more than 26,000 new cases a day, and that’s the highest number in two months, according to Johns Hopkins. 

Bhadelia told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” she believes social media companies can do a lot more to stop disseminating disinformation. 

“They need to invest a lot more resources, and better enhance their balance of taking that information down more quickly, invest more resources in changing their matrix, because, right now, what gets on top of your page is not what’s correct, it’s what’s popular,” said Bhadelia, an NBC News medical contributor.

She also suggested that social media companies form more partnerships with public health bodies in order to get the right information to people.

Facebook spoke out against the claims made by the White House.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a spokesperson said. “The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”

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collapse could have domino effect on China properties

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The Evergrande Group or Evergrande Real Estate Group logo of a Chinese real estate company is seen on a smartphone and a PC screen.

SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

China’s “highly distressed” real estate companies are at risk of collapse as the country’s highly indebted developer Evergrande is on the brink of default, warns AllianceBernstein’s Jenny Zeng.

Speaking with CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Friday, the co-head of Asia fixed income at AllianceBernstein warned of a “domino effect” from a potential Evergrande collapse.

“In the offshore dollar market, there is a considerable large portion of developers (who) are implied to be highly distressed,” Zeng said. These developers “can’t survive much longer” if the refinancing channel remains shut for a prolonged period, she added.

Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer, is crumbling under the weight of more than $300 billion of debt and warned more than once it could default. Banks have reportedly declined to extend new loans to buyers of uncompleted Evergrande residential projects, while ratings agencies have repeatedly downgraded the firm, citing its liquidity crunch.

The financial position of the other Chinese property developers also took a hit following rules outlined by the Chinese government to rein in borrowing costs of the real estate firms. The measures included placing a cap on debt in relation to a company’s cash flows, assets and capital levels.

While the struggling developers are tiny individually, compared to Evergrande, they make up about 10%-15% of the total market on aggregate, Zeng said. She warned that a collapse could result in a “systemic” spillover to other parts of the economy.

“Once it starts, it takes much more from a policy perspective to stop it than to prevent it from happening,” she added.

On its own, a managed default or even messy collapse of Evergrande would have little global impact beyond some market turbulence.

Simon MacAdam

Senior Global Economist, Capital Economics

Taken on its own, the financial or social risks associated directly with Evergrande itself are actually “reasonably manageable,” Zeng explained. She cited the fragmentation of the Chinese property market as a reason behind this.

“Despite Evergrande’s size – we all know it is the largest developer in China, probably the largest in the world – [it] still accounts for only 4% and now it’s even less of the total annual sales market,” Zeng said. “The debt, particularly the onshore debt, is well collateralized.”

China’s ‘Lehman moment’?

Some economists have warned that the collapse of Evergrande could become China’s “Lehman moment” – a reference to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis, which triggered the 2008 global financial crisis.

However, Capital Economics’ Simon MacAdam described that narrative as “wide of the mark.”

Read more about China from CNBC Pro

“On its own, a managed default or even messy collapse of Evergrande would have little global impact beyond some market turbulence,” MacAdam, a senior global economist at the firm, said in a Thursday note. “Even if it were the first of many property developers to go bust in China, we suspect it would take a policy misstep for this to cause a sharp slowdown in its economy.”

As of Friday’s close, the company’s Hong Kong-listed shares have plunged more than 80% year-to-date.

— CNBC’s Weizhen Tan contributed to this report.

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Will China’s President Xi’s big bet pay off?

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Chinese President Xi Jinping is making the most audacious geopolitical bet of the 21st century.

A head-spinning series of seemingly disparate moves over recent months add up to nothing less than a generational wager that Xi can produce the world’s dominant power for the foreseeable future by doubling down on his state-controlled economy, party-disciplined society, nationalistic propaganda, and far-reaching global influence campaigns.

With each week, Xi raises the stakes further, from narrowing seemingly mundane personal freedoms like karaoke bars or a teenager’s permitted time for online gaming to three hours weekly to the multimillion U.S. dollar investor hit from his increased controls on China’s biggest technology companies and their foreign listings.  

It is only in the context of Xi’s increased repressions at home and expanded ambitions abroad that one can fully understand Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision this week to enter a new defense pact, which he called “a forever agreement,” with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Much of the news focus was either on the eight nuclear-powered submarines that Australia would deploy or the spiraling French outrage that their own deal to sell diesel submarines to Australia was undermined by what French officials called a “betrayal” and a “stab in the back” from close allies. France went so far as to recall its ambassador to the United States for the first time in the history of the NATO alliance.

All that noise should not distract from the more significant message of the ground-breaking agreement. Prime Minister Morrison saw more strategic advantage and military capability from the U.S.-U.K. alignment in a rapidly shifting Indo-Pacific atmosphere, replacing his previous stance of trying to balance U.S. and Chinese interests.

“The relatively benign environment we’ve enjoyed for many decades in our region is behind us,” Morrison said on Thursday. “We have entered a new era with challenges for Australia and our partners.”

For China, that new era has many faces: a rapid rollback of economic liberalization, a crackdown on individual freedoms, an escalation of global influence efforts and military buildup, all in advance of the 20th national party congress in October 2022, where Xi hopes to seal his place in history and his continued rule.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, one of the world’s leading China experts, points to Xi’s “bewildering array” of economic policy decisions in a recent speech as president of the Asia Society.

They started last October with the shocking suspension of Alibaba financial affiliate Ant Group’s planned initial public offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai, clearly aimed at Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma. Then in April, Chinese regulators imposed a $3 billion fine on Alibaba for “monopolistic behavior.”

In July, China’s cyber regulator removed ride-hailing giant Didi from app stores, while an investigative unit launched an examination of the company’s compliance with Chinese data-security laws.

Then this month, China’s Transport Ministry regulators summoned senior executives from Didi, Meituan and nine other ride-hailing companies, ordering them to “rectify” their digital misconduct. The Chinese state then took an equity stake in ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, and in Weibo, the micro-blogging platform.

Xi was ready to accept the estimated $1.1 trillion cost in shareholder value wiped from China’s top six technology stocks alone between February and August. That doesn’t factor in further losses among the education, transportation, food delivery, entertainment and video gaming industries.

Less noticed have been a dizzying array of regulatory actions and policy moves whose sum purpose appears to be strengthening state control over, well, just about everything. 

“The best way to summarize it,” says Rudd, “is that Xi Jinping has decided that, in the overall balance between the roles of the state and the market in China, it is in the interests of the Party to pivot toward the state.” Xi is determined to transform modern China into a global great power, “but a great power in which the Chinese Communist Party nonetheless retains complete control.”

That means growing controls as well over the freedoms of its 1.4 billion citizens.

Xi has acted, for example, to restrict the video gaming of school-aged children to three hours a week, and he has banned private tutoring. Chinese regulators have ordered broadcasters to encourage masculinity and remove “sissy men,” or niang pao, from the airwaves. Regulators banned “American Idol”-style competitions and removed from the internet any mention of one of China’s wealthiest actresses, Zhao Wei.

“The orders have been sudden, dramatic and often baffling,” wrote Lily Kuo in the Washington Post. Jude Blanchette of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says, “This is not a sector-by-sector rectification; this is an entire economic, industry and structural rectification.”

At the same time, President Xi has launched a push to share the virtues and successes of the Chinese authoritarian model with the rest of the world. 

“Beijing seeks less to impose a Marxist-Leninist ideology on foreign societies than to legitimate and promote its own authoritarian system,” Charles Edel and David Shullman, the recently appointed director of the Atlantic Council’s new China Global Hub, wrote in “Foreign Affairs.” “The CCP doesn’t seek ideological conformity but rather power, security, and global influence for China and for itself.”

The authors detail China’s global efforts to not remake the world in its image, but rather “to make the world friendlier to its interests — and more welcoming to the rise of authoritarianism in general.”

Those measures include “spreading propaganda, expanding information operations, consolidating economic influence, and meddling in foreign political systems” with the ultimate goal of “hollowing out democratic institutions and norms within and between countries,” Edel and Shullman write.

Within President Xi’s bold bet lie two opportunities for the U.S. and its allies.

The first is that Xi, by overreaching in his controls at home, will undo just the sorts of economic and societal liberalization China needs to succeed. At the same time, the world’s democracies, like Australia, are growing more willing to seek a common cause to address Beijing.

In the end, however, Xi’s concerted moves require an equally concerted response from the world’s democracies. The French-U.S. crisis following the Australian defense deal this week provides just one example of how difficult that will be to achieve and sustain.

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Ex K-pop star Girls’ Generation’s Jessica Jung on new plans, pandemic

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South Korean pop star Jessica Jung attends the opening ceremony and screening of “The Dead Don’t Die” during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2019 in Cannes, France.

Dominique Charriau | WireImage | Getty Images

South Korean pop-star Jessica Jung might be best known for being a former member of K-pop band Girls’ Generation, but she’s now branched into the business world as the owner of her own fashion label, Blanc & Eclare.

Describing herself as an “explorer,” the 32-year-old singer-turned-entrepreneur said the transition from entertainment to fashion was “natural,” adding that she “had a great following in the fashion world.”

With over 9.9 million Instagram followers to her name, being a social media influencer proved to be a full-time commitment.

Her secret?

“You have to be genuine, and you have to have a character for yourself. Then there’s a connection that’s made between you and your followers. That’s how it grows,” she told CNBC’s Inside E-commerce.

Jung gave her fans credit for her success as well. “I’m very lucky because my career actually started in an era where social media just began setting its roots. My fans and I started building it together.”

Social media influencer

She said a good mix of branded content and personal content on social media helps.

“If I have branded content that I need to post, I post that. Then I would definitely post a couple of genuine daily activities and daily fashion, things that my fans and my followers would really want to see,” Jung said.

According to a “Social Salary Calculator” by music licensing platform Lickd.co, social media influencers with over 100,000 followers on Instagram can typically earn over $4,000 per Instagram post.

You have to be genuine, and you have to have a character for yourself. Then there’s a connection that’s made between you and your followers.

Jessica Jung

former member of K-pop band Girls’ Generation

Jung has her concerns about social media as well.

“It can cause some insecurities for people,” she said referring to the “like” button on social media platforms. “I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people around me.”

Life during the pandemic

As for her life during the pandemic, Jung said that her travelling lifestyle has been put on hold and she is now based in South Korea.

“I used to constantly be traveling and I was back in Korea to just pack my things and leave again. But now I’m here — full time,” Jung said.

This change has led to the launch of her first Seoul flagship store for Blanc & Eclare in January 2021, a luxury fashion brand which sells classic wear and accessories, like sunglasses, for women. She also opened her own restaurant, Clareau, on the second floor of the flagship store, which serves contemporary cuisine.

Despite not being able to travel as much as before, she has enjoyed being in South Korea. “I didn’t think that I would like it this much, but I actually love it because I didn’t know I missed home this much. I had time to take care of myself — mentally and physically.”

Jung will be releasing new singles throughout the year that will lead to an album, something that was initially delayed due to Covid-19.

As for other projects, she confirmed with CNBC that a new season of her reality show with her sister Krystal of K-pop girl group f(x) will air in late September.

Jung said her book “Bright,” a sequel to her New York Times’ Bestseller “Shine,” is set to be released mid-2022.

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