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Trump denies kissing sexual misconduct accuser Rachel Crooks



President Donald Trump on Tuesday again denied a woman’s accusation that he forcibly kissed her when she worked at Trump Tower in 2006.

A front-page feature in Tuesday’s Washington Post recounts Rachel Crooks’ experiences since she first told her story in the months before the 2016 presidential election. She is one of 19 woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct they say occurred over a span of decades.

As told in the Post story, Crooks says she met Trump near the elevators on Trump Tower’s 24th floor, outside the offices of the company where she worked at the time. She describes Trump first grabbing her hand, then kissing her on the cheek and then the lips. The incident lasted about two minutes, according to Crooks.

In tweets Tuesday, Trump responded by saying the forced kissing “never happened.” He claimed he did not know, “and, to the best of my knowledge, never met” Crooks. Trump wrote that Crooks said the incident took place in the more public Trump Tower lobby, even though she has repeatedly described it as happening on the 24th floor of the building.

Trump also highlighted a story originally published in The Hill that says attorney Lisa Bloom tried to arrange compensation for some of the women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct. While Bloom did not deny this practice took place, she said the compensation was not to make them tell their stories, but rather so they could relocate or set up security if they faced backlash during a contentious election.

The story does not accuse the women of fabricating allegations against Trump, contradicting a claim he made on Tuesday.

Trump has continued to deny the allegations against him amid a national reckoning over sexual misconduct. Many congressional Democrats have called the behavior alleged by Trump’s accusers disqualifying for a president of the United States.

Several members of Congress from both major parties have resigned or decided not to run for re-election in recent months as they faced sexual misconduct accusations.

Trump famously suggested he touched women without their consent in a 2005 tape that surfaced ahead of the 2016 election.

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush.

“Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” the president later said in the recording.

The White House has repeatedly said American voters made their judgment on Trump’s behavior by electing him president.

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Revolut hires India CEO ahead of 2022 launch



The Revolut logo displayed on a smartphone and a PC screen.

Pavlo Gonchar | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

LONDON — Revolut, an online banking start-up based in the U.K., is planning an expansion into India.

The London-based company announced Thursday that it had tapped Paroma Chatterjee, a former executive for Indian start-ups Flipkart, and LendingKart, to lead its operations in the country.

Revolut will invest about $25 million into the Indian market and aims to launch its app there by 2022, a spokesman for the firm told CNBC. The company, worth $5.5 billion in its most recent funding round, has raised more than $900 million from investors to date.

“We’re looking forward to transforming the way people in India access and manage their money as we bring our products and services to more people around the world,” said Revolut CEO and co-founder Nik Storonsky.

“India is a core market in our expansion strategy with a huge supply of talent, and we’re excited to tap into that talent pool to help Revolut go from strength to strength.”

Revolut said it would hire 300 employees in India. It’s so far recruited heads of operations and legal and aims to fill a multitude of other roles in human resources, marketing and compliance.

Global expansion

With a population of 1.3 billion people and growing acceptance of digital payments, India would be a huge market for Revolut.

Founded in 2015, the company started out with a travel-focused service for cheap currency exchange transactions but has since rolled out further features including stock trading and cryptocurrencies.

It’s one of several digital banks in Europe aiming to take on large incumbents with branchless banking. Others include U.K. peer Monzo, German rival N26 and U.S. start-up Chime.

Revolut, which has already expanded into Asia in countries like Japan and Singapore, is hoping to tap into India’s fast-growing remittances market. The company is in talks with the Reserve Bank of India and a number of local banks to secure the licenses and partnerships required make the launch happen.

An India launch would also see Revolut compete with SoftBank-backed fintech Paytm, which is used by many Indians to make payments by scanning QR codes.

Revolut says its aim is to become a global bank, and even has ambitions to launch in China, a highly-competitive fintech market. The firm is reportedly in talks to raise fresh funds in a round that could value it as much as $15 billion, as it ramps up its international expansion strategy.

The company has found mixed success in North America. It launched in the U.S. last year, has racked up 150,000 clients since and is now seeking a banking charter in the country.

But Revolut subsequently announced in February that it would withdraw from Canada 18 months after initially trialling its service there.

Revolut, which lost £106.5 million in 2019, recently told CNBC that it had managed to break even in November. The firm is expected to release its 2020 financial results before the end of spring.

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Apple AirTag relies on massive iPhone installed base



Apple Airtag

Source: Apple Inc.

On Tuesday, Apple announced a long-awaited gadget called AirTag. Users can attach the $29 coin-sized device to valuables like keys or a backpack, then locate it on a live map inside Apple’s built-in Find My software.

AirTag competes with a number of other products on the market, including from Tile, whose general counsel complained before Congress on Wednesday about Apple’s overall dominance.

But AirTag’s most important differentiating feature isn’t the technology inside the $29 coin-sized stainless steel gadget. It’s other people’s iPhones.

AirTag doesn’t have a GPS signal, which would rapidly drain its battery and raise privacy questions. Instead, when it’s attached to a lost object, it sends out scrambled Bluetooth signals. For those signals to reach the reach the internet and inform the person who’s looking for their lost device, they’ll need to find an iPhone that’s listening for them.

Using Bluetooth and the hundreds of millions of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS devices in active use around the world, the user can locate a missing device even if it can’t connect to a Wi-Fi or cellular network,” Apple explained in a security disclosure about the Find My service. “Any iOS, iPadOS, or macOS device with ‘offline finding’ enabled in Find My settings can act as a ‘finder device.”

The product represents a new frontier for Apple: Using its install base of over 1 billion iPhones as infrastructure to build services that its competitors can’t. Now iPhones are part of a physical network out in the world that’s looking out for stolen goods — even if their users have never purchased an AirTag.

“The bottom line is AirTag is an example of Apple leveraging its ecosystem to create a more compelling product than what is currently in the market,” Loup Ventures founder Gene Munster wrote in a newsletter on Tuesday. “Specifically, AirTag will have better navigation and discovery features, along with a billion-plus device network that can be utilized to help locate lost items.”

Enrolling in the Find My network does have benefits to iPhone users who don’t buy AirTags. Many users sign up because the same app can be used to find lost Apple products, and it’s easy to do when signing into an iCloud account on an iPhone.

The Find My network can be used to find an iPhone after it’s been shut off, as thieves often do after stealing a phone. (If the device is on, it can be contacted through Find My iPhone, a similar service that uses the device’s internet connection and predates the Find My network.)

Users can also opt out of the Find My network in Apple’s settings, although that means they don’t get the benefits of the network, like finding devices that have been turned off or aren’t connected to cellular or Bluetooth. (To do so, go to Settings > Your Name > Find My > Find My iPhone > and then toggle “Find My network” on or off.)

A vast, global network

The number of devices participating in the network is crucial for a product like AirTag.

Apple describes its Find My service as a “vast, global network” and allows third-party accessory makers to release products that use it, too.

If an AirTag is lost in the middle of a desert with no Apple devices in Bluetooth range, it can’t connect to the internet to send signals or update the user’s map. But in the middle of an American city, where an estimated 42% of people have iPhones — more in some areas — you’re much more likely to find a device that’s looking for your lost AirTag.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously described Apple’s product strategy as “only Apple,” suggesting that because the company builds hardware, develops software, and runs its own online services, it can introduce features that rivals like Microsoft, Google, or Samsung can’t.

While Samsung or other major smartphone vendors have similar numbers of phones in people’s hands, they don’t control the underlying operating system, making features like Find My much more difficult to implement widely at once.

For Apple, AirTag is probably an effort to add distinguishing features to its iPhone to discourage current users from switching to an Android device. It’s not likely to be a major revenue driver.

“While the Airtags are incremental to our model we do not believe even a very successful launch of that product will have much impact on our forecasts given the low $29 price point,” Goldman Sachs analyst Rod Hall wrote in a note on Tuesday.

If Apple becomes more skilled at using its installed devices as privacy-sensitive infrastructure, it could represent a durable advantage for the company. Apple’s installed base of iPhones could become especially important as it invests heavily in augmented reality, a technology that merges the physical and digital worlds.

A network of location-aware iPhones could be used in augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go, for example, to identify where other players are competing and start a group experience. It provides the sensors and internet connection needed building for digital experiences in the real world without building new equipment each time.

The privacy angle

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Stock futures decline after major averages post first positive session in three



U.S stock index futures declined in overnight trading on Wednesday, eating into the major averages’ gains from the session.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 31 points. S&P 500 futures dipped 0.15%, while Nasdaq 100 futures declined 0.15%.

Stocks rose on Wednesday during regular trading hours, snapping a two-day losing streak, as companies tied to the economy reopening led the way higher. The Dow advanced 316 points, or 0.93%, while the S&P 500 rose 0.93%. The Nasdaq Composite was the relative outperformer of the major indices, rallying 1.19%.

Small caps were a particular point of strength during the session, with the Russell 2000 ending the day 2.35% higher for its best day since March 1.

The Dow and S&P 500 are less than 1% away from reclaiming their record highs, reached last Friday, amid ongoing optimism over the pace of the economic recovery.

“Stocks continue to fire on almost ‘all cylinders’ and remain in a strong position as the bull expands across the cyclical, secular, and increasingly the defensive [sector] with an economy on the offensive,” noted strategists at Evercore ISI. “The sum of which in conjunction with rising metals and materials, a milquetoast dollar, and a 10-year at 1.55%, offers the technical definition of ‘Goldilocks’ as we consolidate the powerful rally atop key support,” the firm said.

A busy week of earnings season will continue on Thursday with a host of companies set to report quarterly results.

AT&T, D.R. Horton, Southwest, American Airlines, Union Pacific and Biogen are among the names on deck before the opening bell. Intel, Snap, Mattel, Boston Beer and Seagate Technology will report after the market closes.

Economic data released Thursday will also give investors a snapshot of the ongoing economic recovery. Initial jobless claims will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET, with economists expecting a print of 603,000, according to estimates from Dow Jones. Existing home sales data will be released at 10 a.m. ET.

“Significant stimulus, with more coming from the Biden administration, has driven economic forecasts up and might push overall EPS expectations from the $174 consensus projection currently to $180-$185,” Citi’s Tobias Levkovich said in a recent note. “We think that equities are reflecting something closer to $190, which suggests that much is already priced in and that any shortfall could cause a meaningful pullback,” he added.

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