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Alec Baldwin fatal prop gun shooting raises questions about working conditions

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While injuries or death from prop firearms are extremely rare, the accidental killing of Halyna Hutchins on a Sante Fe movie set Thursday has sparked inquiries about working conditions for Hollywood crew members.

“I’ve been in the industry 21 years,” said Kevin Williams, the prop department supervisor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. “I have not heard of any circumstances like this. So, this is definitely one of these things, and it sounds like a cliche to say, but it really sounds like a freak accident.”

The circumstances of the shooting are under investigation. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office confirmed that actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set of “Rust,” a Western being filmed at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, killing the film’s director of photography and injuring its director, Joel Souza.

Security guards and a compliance officer at New Mexico’s Bonanza Creek Ranch on Oct. 22, 2021, the film set where actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded a director when he discharged a prop gun.

Adria Malcolm | Reuters

Souza has since been discharged from the hospital. No charges have been filed. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

While it’s unclear at this point what exactly transpired Thursday, many in the industry have begun to inquire about working conditions on set. These queries come as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees works to finalize a new three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that addresses the union’s calls for better working hours, safer workplace conditions and improved benefits.

“There have been times that I have been on projects for 18 to 20 hours and then been asked to return in six,” Williams said.

Crew protested working conditions

The IATSE issued a statement Friday addressing Hutchins’ death and encouraging its members to contact the union’s safety hotline if they feel unsafe on set.

“Our entire alliance mourns this unspeakable loss with Halyna’s family, friends, and the ‘Rust’ crew,” the statement read. “Creating a culture of safety requires relentless vigilance from every one of us, day in and day out. Please, if you see something, say something.”

The union declined to comment further.

A person familiar with the matter told NBC News that half a dozen camera crew workers walked off the “Rust” set in protest of working conditions just hours before the shooting took place. Among their concerns were multiple misfires of the prop gun.

Earlier Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing three unnamed people involved with the production, that the crew was frustrated with the production’s long hours. It also alleged that there were two previous prop gun misfires on set, one the previous week and one on Saturday.

​”The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company,” Rust Movie Productions said in a statement provided to CNBC. “Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down.”

Rust Productions is cooperating with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation.

A ‘potential failure in the system’

Hollywood productions typically adhere to strict safety measures for stunt work, particularly when it comes to weapon and prop safety. The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee has written and distributed safety bulletins on best practices for television and movie productions.

“Blanks can kill,” the first bulletin reads. “Treat all firearms as though they are loaded. ‘Live ammunition’ is never to be used nor brought onto any studio lot or stage.”

These guidelines are recommendations and may not apply to reality shows such as “Mythbusters” or “Top Shot” where live rounds are used to test scientific theories or for marksmanship competition.

“I can say unequivocally that a blank round versus a live round is really easy to identify in the hands of an experienced armorer or prop master,” Williams said. “I can’t imagine anybody would say ‘whoops’ and just put that in there.”

He also noted that safety demonstrations are done with all cast and crew involved in firearm stunts who are instructed that prop weapons should never be pointed at another actor or crew member. In cases where a director wants to film a weapon being pointed at the camera and discharged, ballistic shields are used, he said.

“There are a lot of safety measures put in place,” he said. “If it turns out that a live round was loaded into a vintage weapon and it turns out that that is how this happened, then we need to figure out why.”

That’s a “potential failure in the system,” Williams said.

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South African rand takes hit on new Covid fears, variant

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South African rand.

RapidEye | iStock | Getty Images

The South African rand on Friday fell sharply against the dollar after a new variant with many mutations was detected in the country.

The currency fell to as low as 16.2391 against the greenback during Asia trading hours on Friday and was last trading about 1.6% weaker at 16.2215 per dollar.

The losses came as investors scurried toward safe-haven currencies such as the Japanese yen, which strengthened about 0.6% against the greenback to 114.69 per dollar. The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against its peers, was at 96.712 — as compared with levels below 96.5 seen earlier this week.

World Health Organization officials said Thursday they are monitoring a new variant with numerous mutations to the spike protein — the part of the virus that binds to cells in the body. The health agency is scheduling a special meeting Friday to discuss what it may mean for vaccines and treatments.

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO.

“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the organization’s social media channels.

Hours following the announcement, the United Kingdom announced it would temporarily suspend flights from six African countries.

— CNBC’s Hannah Miao contributed to this report.

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What are good travel gifts? Experiences travelers can book themselves

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The newest trend in holiday gifts doesn’t take up space in carry-on luggage or add weight to checked bags.

It doesn’t even need to be packed.

Rather than giving holidaymakers new gear for travel — electronics organizers, Yeti thermoses, yet another airplane pillow — some are giving travel itself.   

A survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the computer company Adobe showed that while 51% of respondents plan to purchase physical gifts this holiday season, 17% plan to give “an experience” instead.

Survey respondents cited spa treatments (25%) and concert tickets (25%) most often, while others said they planned to give plane tickets (21%) and cooking classes (16%) as gifts.

“Experience gifting” — as it is known — isn’t new. But it’s finding traction this holiday season as a push for minimalist packing converges with a pandemic that has made travel a top priority for many in 2022.    

More experiences, less ‘stuff’

Migle Rakauskaite, the chief marketing manager at travel experience website Tinggly.com, said the pandemic is prompting an increase in travel experience gift purchases.

“Gifting traditions are changing,” she said. “People seem to value quality time together and doing something meaningful. Experience gifts are so much more valuable than the regular ‘stuff.'”

They’re also easy. With a few strokes of a keyboard, buyers can give experiences that once would have required time and coordination to pull off — a street food tour in Vietnam, a hot air balloon ride outside Chicago, or a private gondola tour for two through the canals of Venice, Italy.

Tinggly.com’s travel experience “gift boxes” never expire, which played a “huge part” in the rise of purchases during the pandemic, Rakauskaite said.

Tinggly.com’s “Bucketlist” gift box ($239) lets recipients choose among more than 800 experiences, from a surfing lesson for two in Kona, Hawaii to a Northern Lights “chase” via minibus.

Piriya Photography | Moment Open | Getty Images

Perhaps most important of all, recipients — not the buyers — get to choose their own experiences at a time and date that suit their schedules.

Tinggly addresses a hang-up some have about giving intangible presents — it sends a package for recipients to open. Gift boxes can be mailed worldwide, though last-minute purchasers can also be sent via e-voucher, according to a company representative.

A weekend getaway

For people who prefer to hole up and relax on vacation, booking a weekend away may be a better option.

Ski chalets, lake houses and other homes on the rental website Vrbo can be purchased as gifts, said Alison Kwong, a company senior manager. Once the house is booked, the purchaser needs only to add other travelers’ names to the reservation.

Though Vrbo doesn’t have vouchers or gift cards, houses like this mountain retreat in Park City, Utah, can be booked for someone else, the company said.

Courtesy of Vrbo

Kwong recommends purchasers start by thinking about the type of home that suits the recipient. That could be a house with a game room or home theater for families, or a mountain cabin with ski-in, ski-out access for a group of friends.

“When you find a vacation home you know they’ll love … make sure the vacation home offers flexible cancellation in case they need to change the dates of their stay,” she said.

Onefinestay rents the”Adobe Old Town Overlook” mountain chalet in Park City, Utah for around $895 per night.

Courtesy of One Fine Stay

Onefinestay, a home rental website with houses and villas in “bucket list” destinations — such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Cayman Islands and Italy’s Amalfi Coast — lets people book homes as gifts.

Purchasers need to confirm dates, credit card information and guest details before the stay, according to a company representative.

Roadtrippers and campers

Those who prefer vacations in the great outdoors can receive travel gifts booked through Campspot.

The website is like an Airbnb for outdoorsmen, connecting travelers with campgrounds, recreational vehicle (RV) parks, ranches and rustic resorts, many of which cost less than $50 per night.

Harvest Hosts members can avoid crowded campgrounds by parking their RVs at secluded wineries and farms during their travels.

franckreporter | E+ | Getty Images

Another option for RV owners is a gift membership to Harvest Hosts. Memberships are $99 a year and grant overnight parking access, without extra fees, to more than 2,700 places across North America. Spots are unconventional and less crowded, according to the website, and include wineries, organic farms and museums.  

For $40 more, RV owners can also park their vehicles at hundreds of golf courses on the continent too, according to a company representative.

Splurge gifts

To go big this holiday, companies that combine home rentals and concierge services are an option.

The Nightfall Group can arrange exotic car rentals, like a Ferrari 488 Spider, during vacations.

Agoes Rudianto | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Nightfall Group rents houses from Beverly Hills, California, to the French Riviera.

Travelers can tack on services from airport transfers and stocked groceries to jet and yacht charters. Chauffeurs, chefs, nannies and butlers can also be booked through the Los Angeles-based company.

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China’s Didi asked to delist from U.S., SoftBank shares fall: Report

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A navigation map on the app of Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi is seen on a mobile phone in front of the app logo displayed in this illustration picture taken July 1, 2021.

Florence Lo | Reuters

GUANGZHOU, China — Shares of SoftBank extended their losses on Friday after Bloomberg reported that Chinese regulators have asked Didi’s executives to formulate a plan to delist from the U.S.

SoftBank shares in Japan were down 4.77% at the lunch break. SoftBank’s Vision Fund owned more than 20% of Didi following its U.S. listing.

Bloomberg’s report said regulators want Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi to delist from the New York Stock Exchange because of concerns about leakage of sensitive data. The news agency cited people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The Cyberspace Administration of China has asked Didi to work out the details for a delisting which will be subject to government approval, the report said.

Didi could either go for a privatization or a listing in Hong Kong after delisting in the U.S, the report said.

A privatization would be at the $14 per share IPO price when the company listed, while a Hong Kong float would likely be at a discount to what Didi’s shares were trading at in the U.S., according to Bloomberg.

Didi declined to comment on the report.

A state-directed delisting would be an unprecedented move but highlights Beijing’s continued push to reign in technology giants and put them under tighter regulation. Didi in particular is a special case. Shortly after its IPO in the U.S. in June, regulators opened a cybersecurity review into the company.

Didi reportedly drew the ire of regulators by pushing ahead with an IPO without resolving outstanding cybersecurity issues that the authorities wanted solved. Didi is China’s largest ride-hailing app and holds lots of data on travel routes and users.

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