Jinri Toutiao. The two built a rapport, and an investment vehicle associated with Mr. Milner led a $10 million financing in Mr. Zhang’s company that same year, three people with knowledge of the deal said.

The news aggregator eventually became ByteDance — now valued at around $360 billion, according to PitchBook — and owns TikTok; its Chinese sister app, Douyin; and various education and enterprise software ventures.

By 2015, Mr. Chew had joined Xiaomi as chief financial officer. He spearheaded the device maker’s 2018 initial public offering, led its international efforts and became an English-speaking face for the brand.

“Shou grew up with both American and Chinese language and culture surrounding him,” said Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who worked with Mr. Chew at Xiaomi. “He is objectively better positioned than anyone I’ve ever met in the China business world to be this incredible dual-edged executive in a Chinese company that wants to become a global powerhouse.”

In March 2021, Mr. Chew announced that he was joining ByteDance as chief financial officer, fueling speculation that the company would go public. (It remains privately held.)

appointed Mr. Chew as chief executive, with Mr. Zhang praising his “deep knowledge of the company and industry.” Late last year, Mr. Chew stepped down from his ByteDance role to focus on TikTok.

Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, left after the Trump administration’s effort to sunder the app from its Chinese parent. China was also cracking down on its domestic internet giants, with Mr. Zhang resigning from his official roles at ByteDance last year. Mr. Zhang remains involved in decision making, people with knowledge of ByteDance said.

Mr. Chew moved to establish himself as TikTok’s new head during visits to the app’s Los Angeles office in mid-2021. At a dinner with TikTok executives, he sought to build camaraderie by keeping a Culver City, Calif., restaurant open past closing time, three people with knowledge of the event said. He asked attendees if he should buy the establishment to keep it open longer, they said.

a TikTok NFT project involving the musical artists Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch. He reprimanded TikTok’s global head of marketing on a video call with Beijing-based leaders for ByteDance after some celebrities dropped out of the project, four people familiar with the meeting said. It showed that Mr. Chew answered to higher powers, they said.

Mr. Chew also ended a half-developed TikTok store off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, three people familiar with the initiative said. TikTok briefly explored obtaining the naming rights of the Los Angeles stadium formerly known as the Staples Center, they said.

He has also overseen layoffs of American managers, two people familiar with the decisions said, while building up teams related to trust and safety. In its U.S. marketing, the app has shifted its emphasis from a brand that starts trends and conversations toward its utility as a place where people can go to learn.

In May, Mr. Chew flew to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, speaking with European regulators and ministers from Saudi Arabia to discuss digital strategy.

June letter to U.S. lawmakers, he noted that ByteDance employees in China could gain access to the data of Americans when “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls.” But he said TikTok was in the process of separating and securing its U.S. user data under an initiative known as Project Texas, which has the app working with the American software giant Oracle.

“We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms,” Mr. Chew wrote.

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Phoenix Suns Owner Fined $10M For Racist, Misogynistic Conduct

Robert Sarver, who also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was suspended one year and fined the league maximum after a nearly yearlong investigation.

The NBA has suspended Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver for one year, plus fined him $10 million, after an investigation found that he had engaged in what the league called “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies.”

The findings of the league’s report, published Tuesday, came nearly a year after the NBA asked a law firm to investigate allegations that Sarver had a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents over his nearly two-decade tenure overseeing the franchise.

Sarver said he will “accept the consequences of the league’s decision” and apologized for “words and actions that offended our employees,” though noted he disagreed with some of the report’s findings.

The report said Sarver “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns,” though added that the investigation “makes no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate.”

The study also concluded that Sarver used demeaning language toward female employees, including telling a pregnant employee that she would not be able to do her job after becoming a mother; made off-color comments and jokes about sex and anatomy; and yelled and cursed at employees in ways that would be considered bullying “under workplace standards.”

The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed by NBA rule.

“I take full responsibility for what I have done,” Sarver said. “I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values. … This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow as we continue to build a working culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued.”

Sarver, the league said, cannot be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility; attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including games, practices or business partner activity; represent the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity; or have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury.

The league said it would donate the $10 million “to organizations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace.”

“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We believe the outcome is the right one, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to upholding proper standards in NBA workplaces.”

It’s the second-largest penalty — in terms of total sanctions — ever levied by the NBA against a team owner, behind Donald Sterling being banned for life by Silver in 2014. Sterling was fined $2.5 million, the largest allowable figure at that time, and was forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the massive fallout that followed him making racist comments in a recorded conversation.

The allegations against Sarver were reported by ESPN last year, which said it talked to dozens of current and former team employees for its story, including some who detailed inappropriate behavior. He originally denied or disputed most of the allegations through his legal team.

On Tuesday, Sarver’s representatives said the investigation’s findings “confirmed that there was no evidence, whatsoever, to support several of the accusations in ESPN’s reporting from November 2021.”

“While it is difficult to identify with precision what motivated Sarver’s workplace behavior described in this report, certain patterns emerged from witness accounts: Sarver often acted aggressively in an apparent effort to provoke a reaction from his targets; Sarver’s sense of humor was sophomoric and inappropriate for the workplace; and Sarver behaved as though workplace norms and policies did not apply to him,” read the report from the New York-based investigating firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Sarver will have to complete a training program “focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace” during his suspension, the league said.

Among the league’s findings:

— That Sarver engaged in “crude, sexual and vulgar commentary and conduct in the workplace,” including references to sexual acts, condoms and the anatomy, referring to both his own and those of others.

— The investigation also found that Sarver sent a small number of male Suns employees “joking pornographic material and crude emails, including emails containing photos of a nude woman and a video of two people having sex.”

— Sarver, the investigation found, also exposed himself unnecessarily to a male Suns employee during a fitness check, caused another male employee to become uncomfortable by grabbing him and dancing “pelvis to pelvis” at a holiday party, and standing nude in front of a male employee following a shower.

— He also made comments about female employees, the investigation found, including the attractiveness of Suns dancers, and asked a female Suns employee if she had undergone breast augmentation.

The league also will require the Suns and Mercury to engage in a series of workplace improvements, including retaining outside firms that will “focus on fostering a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace.”

Employees of those organizations will be surveyed, anonymously and regularly, to ensure that proper workplace culture is in place. The NBA and WNBA will need to be told immediately of any instances, or even allegations, of significant misconduct by any employees.

All those conditions will be in place for three years.

The league said the results of the investigation were based on interviews with 320 individuals, including current and former employees who worked for the teams during Sarver’s 18 years with the Suns, and from the evaluation of more than 80,000 documents and other materials, including emails, text messages and videos.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Why Is It So Difficult To Bring Detained Americans Home?

There are over 50 Americans that are wrongfully detained in several countries, and many wonder why is it hard to negotiate their release.

If you ask American diplomats and military leaders, Trevor Reed never should have been in that nightmare, wasting away in a Russian prison. 

“Every day that I was in prison there, I never fully was able to accept that that was real. You kind of wake up and you’re like, maybe this is a nightmare. Maybe I’m not, you know, like a political prisoner here. Maybe this didn’t happen,” said Reed.  

Russian officials arrested the marine corps veteran in 2019 and accused him of assaulting local police — charges U.S. officials criticized as “absurd.”

In 2020, a Russian court sentenced Reed to nine years in prison. 

He would spend nearly 1,000 days there. 

1,000 days he thought might be his last. 

“I was losing so much weight, I thought ‘Okay, I’m not going to make it,’ said Reed.  

Reed’s interview with our station in Waco, Texas was only possible because the Biden administration agreed to a prisoner swap in April. 

It sent a Russian pilot convicted of drug smuggling to Moscow in exchange for bringing Reed home. 

TODD UNGER: You’re about to cross that tarmac. And you’re thinking what? 

TREVOR REED: I just thought the whole thing was like extremely surreal. 

But Reed’s story is the exception. He is one of the few Americans recently detained overseas who made it back to their families. 

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation says at least 67 U.S. citizens are detained overseas and nine out of 10 of them are wrongly detained. 

Diane Foley is the organization’s founder. She named it after her son James Foley who went missing in November of 2012 while reporting in Syria. Nearly two years later ISIS posted a video online showing his murder. Foley was one of what his mother calls “bargaining chips” for foreign powers.   

“We fear that the 67 public cases are a tip of the iceberg, if you will. We suspect is hundreds more,” said Foley. “Often they want various concessions that we don’t want to give. The whole process of negotiation is the part that’s essential. I think too often in the past, because this is not pleasant or difficult or easy. It’s been avoided, frankly.”

The Foley Foundation advocates for hostages and journalist safety. 

Foley says countries including Iran, China and Russia are currently wrongfully detaining U.S. nationals or U.S. lawful permanent residents. 

“They usually have an agenda and they often will make hold us hostage as the government,” said Foley. 

The arrest and sentencing of women’s basketball superstar Brittney Griner thrust the issue back into international headlines. 

The U.S. State Department is escalating its efforts to bring Griner home and considers her “wrongfully detained.” 

“We are doing everything we can, almost all of it unseen, almost all of it unsaid in public,” said Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.  

Advocates, like Foley, believe the calls for urgency in these situations are good — but it can also up the ante for the captors. 

“The publicity helps our administration to recognize and do what it must do, to negotiate and bring them home. But the downside is it can increase the value of that particular person who’s been detained. And that’s always a risk,” said Price.  

The White House is weighing a prisoner swap to bring Griner and another wrongfully imprisoned American, Paul Whelan, back to the U.S. 

Political experts and opinion columnists have said such a move could set a dangerous precedent. It would give foreign adversaries a motivation to detain Americans on trumped up charges again. 

Others like Trevor Reed say a swap may be necessary.  

“The Russians took Paul Whelan, and immediately asked for a prisoner exchange. The U.S. said ‘oh no, they could extort the United States’ and if that’s your argument would be they didn’t take more Americans hostage, but they did. After that, they took me,” said Reed.  

Russian police arrested Whelan, a former marine, in 2018 and accused him of espionage. 

Whelan’s family disputes the charges and says he’s being held as leverage in a geopolitical dispute. 

“It is going to be an ongoing problem for Americans traveling around the world. Not just in Russia not just with Paul’s case. And the delays that the U.S. government suffers when they decide who to handle it just makes it worse for the particular family involved,” said David Whelan, Paul’s brother. 

Griner and Whelan’s cases are in the hands of a State Department Office President Obama set up in 2015 to negotiate releases for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans. 

It’s called the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

“There was really, you know, a lot of pressure on the Obama administration to find out why what are we doing with hostage families,” said Foley.  

In July, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to increase the consequences for people tied to wrongful detainment. 

The move builds on the 2020 Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage Accountability Act which made permanent that State Department Office President Obama set up.   

The law’s namesake was a retired FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007. 

His family says he died in Iranian custody as the longest-held hostage in American history. 

Iran denies involvement in Levinson’s disappearance or detention. 

President Biden’s order will now allow officials to sanction and place entry restrictions on those it believes wrongfully detained Americans. 

The State Department is also adding a “D” indicator on travel advisories to show the risk of detention in a country. 

Right now the department has “D”s listed for Myanmar, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia and China.  

“We weigh the totality of circumstances in every case, whether it’s the case of Brittney Griner, whether it’s the case of Paul Wheelan, whether it’s the case of Americans in Iran. There’s going to be unique factors in each and every one of those cases,” said Price.  

Families, like Trevor Reeds’ and James Foleys’, say the government needs to be more transparent with families when their loved one is imprisoned abroad. 

“The United States government did not recognize my son as wrongfully detained for almost a complete year. We need them to declare Americans wrongfully detained much quicker,” said Joey Reed, Trevor’s father.  

“I would hope that it could become evermore a priority and have more assets applied to bringing people home, as opposed to needing to pick up the pieces after horrific executions,” said Foley. 

Trevor Reed says he’s grateful for the Biden administration’s work. 

But believes the White House can do more to help Griner, Whelan and the dozens of others held abroad against their will. 

UNGER: What is your message to them? 

REED: You know, my message to them is, do whatever you have to do there to survive. And if you have hope, then then don’t give that up. 

Source: newsy.com

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Three Icons In Women’s Sports Are Saying Goodbye

Serena Williams, Sue Bird and Allyson Felix are retiring from their respective sports and moving on to other ventures.

It’s the end of an era for women’s sports, as three icons retire from their respective games.

“Something that you can’t ignore is all the high-profile women and female athletes that are some of the greatest in the world who are all retiring at the same time,” said Melanie Anzidei, a reporter with NorthJersey.com. 

Tennis star Serena Williams, basketball legend Sue Bird, and the most-decorated American track and field athlete in Olympic history Alysson Felix are leaving behind incredible legacies that extend well beyond their sport.

“Women, people of color are always put down because of the way they look or some people’s ideas think they can’t do as much, so putting Serena as a role model and all she’s done is really good,” said Isalia Lebron, a 13-year-old tennis player.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, spent the last 27 years dominating the world of tennis, inspiring women everywhere in the process.

“My granddaughter sees Serena, she’s like, ‘Nana I can do that because Serena did it. If Serena said you could do it, anybody can do it,'” said Tiffany Martinez, a fan from Columbus, Ohio. “So, we’re here. After 33 years of being a waitress and never, ever having a weekend off, I took a whole weekend off this week just to come see her because she’s done that much for me.”

Williams, who won the Australian Open in 2017 while two months pregnant, says she is “ready for what’s next,” turning her attention now to having another child and expanding her business interests. This includes her investment firm, Serena Ventures, which aims to support women and minority-owned businesses.

“She’s kinda just an iconic athlete that kind of transcends sport in a very big way,” Anzidei said. 

Meanwhile, the WNBA is saying goodbye to arguably the most accomplished player in the game, Sue Bird. She helped lead the University of Connecticut to two NCAA titles and played on five gold medal-winning Olympic teams for the U.S.

As a pro, she helped lead the Seattle Storm to four WNBA championships over 19 seasons in the league. Off the court, she has emerged as a powerful advocate for LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Not only is she one of the greatest in the WNBA, she’s also unique because she is stepping outside of just basketball,” Anzidei said. “She’s choosing to invest in a team. In Gotham FC, she’s choosing to become a minority investor in the club, which is interesting because she announced that while she was still active in the WNBA.”

Then, with 11 Olympic medals, track superstar Allyson Felix is hanging up her spikes. Over the course of her career, Felix pushed the limits of her sport while breaking down barriers for women off the track.

“I had kind of heard the statistics of Black women being more at risk for complications, but being a professional athlete, it just…. I never imagined myself in this situation,” Felix said. “At 32 weeks, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia.”

She has advocated relentlessly for women’s issues like job and pay protections for athletes who become mothers, and for maternal health care. 

“I really want women just to be aware, to know if they are at risk, to have a plan in place and not be intimidated in doctor’s offices,” Felix said. “I know how important it is. I know how scared I was. I know how I didn’t feel prepared or educated, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way.”

“What’s very unique about her is that for her, parenthood is probably the signature of one of the biggest footnotes of her entire athletic career,” Anzidei said. “It has been that something that she’s made a priority, and that’s going to change sport in tremendous ways for athletes.”

While the three athletes have crossed the finish line in their respective sports, they’re not done winning yet outside the game.

Source: newsy.com

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WNBA Playoffs Head Into Semifinals With Increased Viewership

Viewership for WNBA games rose 16% compared to last year, along with increasing social media and website traffic for the league.

The WNBA playoffs are heating up semifinals kick off on Sunday. 

It’s down to the final four teams: The defending champions Chicago Sky will take on the Connecticut Sun, while top-seeded Las Vegas Aces will battle Seattle Storm.

And league officials say they’re encouraged by the points the league is scoring off the court, as well.

Officials say the 2022 season saw a slam dunk in viewership with a 16% rise over the previous year, making it the most watched regular season in 14 years at an average of roughly 379,000 viewers. Online social media engagement was up 36% from 2021, and website traffic was up 79% with 9.2 million visits in total.

“We’re going to implement a couple of things, because I feel confident in how we’re doing at the league level,” said Cathy Engelbert, WNBA commissioner.

The 26-year-old league is known for its play that emphasizes ball handling, competitive games and the marketing of player style. 

The year began with a $75 million investment by new investors, including Nike and the NBA. 

Mid-season, Engelbert announced that the league is trying to improve the lives of the women who play the game.

“For the WNBA finals, we’re going to provide charter flights to our players,” Engelbert said. “In the spirit of finding other ways to compensate our players, we’re planning to increase the post-season bonus pools by almost 50% to a half million dollars. That would almost double the bonus reach player who wins the championship.”

These changes to the player experience come amid conversations about how WNBA players are compensated compared to their male counterparts in the NBA.

On average, NBA players are some of the highest paid athletes in the world, with the average salary for this season coming in around $7.3 million. Meanwhile, the top players in the WNBA are reportedly making roughly $230,000 a year.

The driving force behind these conversations is WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detainment in Russia on charges of drug smuggling. Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Moscow court in August, had been competing in a Russian league during her WNBA off season and was reportedly earning about $1 million for doing so — a salary more than four times what she was making during her WNBA season.

Looking ahead to next season, Englebert says the league plans to play an all-time high of 40 regular season games, compared to this season’s 36. In addition, the league is eyeing opportunities to expand its reach by bringing new teams to cities around the country. 

“We have a lot of interest — I’d say probably 10 or 15 cities very interested in hosting a WNBA team,” Engelbert said. “So we’re meeting here and there, I’ll call it, with interested ownership groups. We are looking for the right ownership groups, with the right commitment, the right arena situation, the right city, to support the WNBA franchise.”

It’s a move the league says is backed by data showing growing public interest, which should be kept in mind during future media negotiations.

“When you look at our viewership versus the NHL, MLS, NASCAR and things like that, some ways on cable, we are at or above them, our social platform and stuff like that,” Engelbert said. “How do we get these qualitative metrics as part of the next media deal negotiation?”

Source: newsy.com

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