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Facebook Calibra VP Product Kevin Weil discusses Libra at Web Summit

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Kevin Weil, VP of product at Facebook’s Calibra, speaks on stage at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal on November 5, 2019.

Horacio Villalobos | Corbis News | Getty Images

LISBON, Portugal — A top Facebook executive has said the tech giant’s proposed libra cryptocurrency won’t go viral like a social media platform and will take decades to roll out.

“This is not going to be a thing that spreads like a social network,” Kevin Weil, vice president of product at Facebook’s Calibra digital wallet unit, told an audience at the Web Summit technology conference. “This is going to be the work not of years but of decades, and it’s worth making.”

The company has come under intense regulatory pressure ever since it first announced its plans for a digital currency back in June. The Libra Association, a Switzerland-based consortium overseeing the project, lost multiple key initial backers including Mastercard and Visa last month on the back of that pushback.

But Weil seemed optimistic on the interest among other companies in joining Libra. “18 months ago, this was an idea,” he said. “Today we have 21 fantastic committed organisations that are members of the Libra Association; a bunch more that are looking to be involved. So expect that number to continue to grow.”

Libra’s value would be tied to a basket of government currencies and debt to maintain a stable value, similar to the many so-called “stablecoins” that look to avoid the volatility seen in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Facebook says its primary use case would be for remittances, where people send money across borders.

Weil said that the libra token would address the pain currently involved in sending money abroad, claiming the average fee for remittances comes in at about 7% of the total transaction amount.

One of the key concerns among some political and regulatory figures has been the fact that Facebook has so far been the organization leading the digital currency initiative. The social network’s boss Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook “would be forced to leave” the association if members voted to move forward without the clearances it feels it needs.

“There are going to be people who are not comfortable using a financial product built by Facebook,” Weil said, adding that it’s “OK” if they feel that way. “You don’t have to use a Facebook product ever to get the greater value of the accessibility and lower cost brought by the libra ecosystem.”

The idea is that Calibra would be Facebook’s way of making a business out of libra, utilizing it with its digital wallet which users would be able to store and exchange funds on. Weil said there will be plenty of other wallets from companies both small and large that can incorporate libra.

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EU grants conditional clearance to Covid-19 antiviral remdesivir

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An employee of Egyptian pharmaceutical company Eva Pharma works on the production line of Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral medication which has been approved as a specific treatment for Covid-19.

Fadel Dawood | picture alliance via Getty Images

The European Commission said on Friday it had given conditional approval for the use of COVID-19 antiviral remdesivir following an accelerated review process.

The EU executive said the drug, produced by Gilead Sciences Inc, was the first medicine authorized in the European Union for treating COVID-19 following a “rolling review” begun by the European Medicines Agency at the end of April.

The agency reviews data as they become available on a rolling basis, while development is still ongoing.

The Commission said on Wednesday it was in negotiations with Gilead to obtain doses of remdesivir for the 27 European Union countries.

However, that may prove difficult after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it had secured all of Gilead’s projected production for July and 90% of that for August and September.

Remdesivir is in high demand after the intravenously-administered medicine helped to shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial. It is believed to be most effective in treating COVID-19 patients earlier in the course of disease than other therapies like the steroid dexamethasone.

Still, because remdesivir is given intravenously over at least a five-day period it is generally being used on patients sick enough to require hospitalization.

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A factory is challenging perceptions

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From cars to tables and computers to radios, factories manufacture a host of products integral to modern life. In many cases these facilities can be energy intensive and, if we’re being honest, not very pleasing to look at.  

As concerns about sustainability and the environment mount, however, a number of firms are attempting to reduce the impact of their operations with factories and offices using clever design, interesting materials and renewable sources of energy.

Earlier this week, designs for a new furniture factory in Norway were released, with the firms involved in its development hoping it will be sustainable, aesthetically pleasing and technologically advanced.

Known as The Plus, the 6,500-meter-squared building will be located in Magnor, Norway and surrounded by trees, with the site also functioning as a 300-acre park.

The architecture practice involved with the project’s design is the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and their client is Vestre, a Norwegian furniture manufacturer established in 1947.

Construction work is due to start in August and when finished, the facility will be home to a range of sustainable features. According to BIG — which has offices in Copenhagen, New York, Barcelona and London — the building’s façade will be formed of local timber, recycled reinforcement steel and low-carbon concrete, while 1,200 solar panels will be installed on its roof. Overall, it’s hoped that greenhouse gas emissions from The Plus will be 50% less compared to a conventional factory.

A dedicated website outlining the plans for the building states that more than 90% of water used in production will be recycled. It adds that the factory will use “self-learning industrial robots” and driverless electric trucks. The robots will, according to the site, be able to apply color coatings to products using artificial intelligence and “object recognition” technology.

The Plus is one of many sustainability-focused buildings currently in development. Drinks giant Diageo recently announced plans for a carbon-neutral whiskey distillery in Kentucky.

In a statement issued Monday, Diageo, which produces drinks including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness, listed a number of features that it hopes will boost the sustainability of the distillery and its operations.

These include: the facility running on 100% renewable electricity; the use of LED bulbs indoors to boost energy efficiency; and all vehicles operated there being electric.

Meanwhile, last week, Australian tech firm Atlassian unveiled plans to construct what it described as “the world’s tallest hybrid timber building.”

The design will incorporate timber and a façade of glass and steel that will also use solar panels and have “self-shade capabilities.” Plans are also in place for a staggered outdoor garden to be integrated into the structure.

 

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Trump in trouble over coronavirus, Black Lives Matter: Expert

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President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis and widespread protests over racial injustice have landed him “in big trouble” ahead of November’s election, according to one politics expert.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Friday, Inderjeet Parmar, professor of International Politics at City University, said Trump had been given two political gifts — but had squandered both.

“The pandemic, deadly as it has turned out to be, was a chance for him to unite the country, to rise above the political factionalism, and effectively act as the president of the United States in a period of emergency,” Parmar said.

“He didn’t do it, and he’s in big trouble because of that … President Trump has made his bed, and I think in the end he’s going to pay a terrible price, and that price is already being paid by a very large number of American people, both in terms of their health, and also in terms of the economy.”

A spokesperson for the White House was not immediately available to comment when contacted by CNBC.

There have been more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 128,740 fatalities from the virus in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has recorded the highest number of infections and the most deaths due to the coronavirus in the world.

The nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd had also seen Trump fail to offer “anything in regard to any kind of significant sympathy,” Parmar added.

“I think what he’s shown is when it comes to real emergencies, when you need real leadership, he actually doesn’t have any of that kind of quality,” he said. “He talks about the people but he doesn’t appear to know the people’s interests lie in their economic wellbeing and their physical and personal safety.”

Parmar claimed that Trump’s response to both crises would weigh heavily on his chances of reelection in November.

“Trump has done a great deal for candidate Biden, so Biden can almost sit in his armchair in his basement and reap the rewards of President Trump’s total indifference to such a large set of problems in the United States,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parmar noted that Biden had been reaching out across the Democratic party and to opponents he had in the primaries.

“He is actually building bridges or moving a bit further to the left, and he’s opened a space for the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Cortez and others, and I think their voices are going to be stronger in that administration,” he predicted.

Because of this, however, Parmar acknowledged that financial markets could well have something to worry about, as a Biden presidency was likely to lead to a greater focus on social programs.

“The broad neo-liberal market-oriented consensus has been shaken by the responses of government to the pandemic,” he told CNBC. “But I think the underlying philosophy of the market, I don’t think that’s been defeated, I think it’s going to carry on. So I suspect a lot of people are still going to be very unhappy.”

CNBC’s latest Change Research survey showed that Trump had slumped against Biden in polls, with support for Biden surging in several key battleground states.

Analysts at the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report last month that while the presidential election would be closely fought, “the odds have now shifted firmly in Mr. Biden’s favour.” The EIU cited several reasons for the shift in support, but researchers emphasized the importance of how Trump had handled the Covid-19 outbreak and Black Lives Matter protests.

In June, Eurasia Group’s Jonathan Lieber told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” that Trump was “on the wrong side” of public opinion polls when it came to the Black Lives Matter movement, which was starting to seriously hurt the president’s approval ratings in the run up to the elections.

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