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By Echo Wang and Alexandra Alper

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (Reuters) – China’s ByteDance has
agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely in a
bid to save a deal with the White House, after President Donald
Trump said on Friday he had decided to ban the popular
short-video app, two people familiar with the matter said on

U.S. officials have said TikTok under its Chinese parent
poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles.
ByteDance’s concession will test whether Trump’s threat to ban
TikTok is a negotiating tactic or whether he is intent on
cracking down on a social media app that has up to 80 million
daily active users in the United States.

Trump told reporters onboard Air Force One late on Friday
that he would issue an order for TikTok to be banned in the
United States as early as Saturday. “Not the deal that you have
been hearing about, that they are going to buy and sell… We
are not an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) country,” Trump said.

ByteDance was previously seeking to keep a minority stake in
the U.S. business of TikTok, which the White House had rejected.
Under the new proposed deal, ByteDance would exit completely and
Microsoft Corp would take over TikTok in the United
States, the sources said.

Some ByteDance investors that are based in the United States
may be given the opportunity to take minority stakes in the
business, the sources added. About 70% of ByteDance’s outside
investors come from the United States.

The White House declined to comment on whether Trump would
accept ByteDance’s concession. ByteDance in Beijing did not
respond to a request for comment

Under ByteDance’s new proposal, Microsoft will be in charge
of protecting all U.S. user data, the sources said. The plan
allows for another U.S. company other than Microsoft to take
over TikTok in the United States, the sources added.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

As relations between the United States and China deteriorate
over trade, Hong Kong’s autonomy, cyber security and the spread
of the novel coronavirus, TikTok has emerged as a flashpoint in
the dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

ByteDance has been considering a range of options for TikTok
amid U.S. pressure to relinquish control of the app, which
allows users to create short videos with special effects and has
become wildly popular with U.S. teenagers.

ByteDance had received a proposal from some of its
investors, including Sequoia and General Atlantic, to transfer
majority ownership of TikTok to them, Reuters reported on
Wednesday. The proposal valued TikTok at about $50 billion, but
some ByteDance executives believe the app is worth more than

ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based video app in a
$1 billion deal in 2017 and relaunched it as TikTok the
following year. ByteDance did not seek approval for the
acquisition from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the
United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals for potential
national security risks. Reuters reported last year that CFIUS
had opened an investigation into TikTok.



The United States has been increasingly scrutinizing app
developers over the personal data they handle, especially if
some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel.
Ordering the divestment of TikTok would not be the first time
the White House has taken action over such concerns.

Earlier this year, Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun
Tech Co Ltd sold Grindr LLC, a popular gay dating
app it bought in 2016, for $620 million after being ordered by
CFIUS to divest.

In 2018, CFIUS forced China’s Ant Financial to scrap plans
to buy MoneyGram International Inc over concerns about
the safety of data that could identify U.S. citizens.

ByteDance was valued at as much as $140 billion earlier this
year when one of its shareholders, Cheetah Mobile, sold
a small stake in a private deal, Reuters has reported. The
startup’s investors include Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

The bulk of ByteDance’s revenue comes from advertising on
apps under its Chinese operations including Douyin – a Chinese
version of TikTok – and news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao, as
well as video-streaming app Xigua and Pipixia, an app for jokes
and humorous videos.
(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York and Alexandra Alper in
Washington, D.C.
Editing by Diane Craft)

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Bolivias political crisis threatens hospitals and patients

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Hooked up to ventilators, 11 prematurely born infants struggled for survival Thursday in the intensive care ward of a Bolivian maternity hospital.

The babies’ supply of oxygen is in peril, doctors say, because of nationwide blockades by supporters of the party of former President Evo Morales who object to the recent postponement of elections. Bolivia’s political crisis adds to the burden on its health care system, which was already grappling with the coronavirus as it continues to spread across one of Latin America’s poorest countries.

Street unrest erupted after the Supreme Electoral Tribunal moved the planned vote from Sept. 6 to Oct. 18 following warnings from medical experts that it would be unsafe to hold the election while the pandemic was not yet under control. It was the third time the vote has been delayed, angering protesters who accuse the government of interim President Jeanine Áñez of simply trying to hang on to power.

Now, after about 10 days of blockades, supplies are threatened in some hospitals that are also dealing with an escalating number of COVID-19 patients, according to officials.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to Bolivian institutions to negotiate solutions to the country’s multiple problems, spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

“He calls on the organizers of the protests to ensure the safe passage of ambulances, oxygen and medicines and allow the delivery of goods and services essential to the population,” Dujarric said Tuesday.

The struggle for control of Bolivia threatens its most vulnerable people. At the public Women’s Hospital in La Paz, pediatrician Dr. Hugo Tejerina said oxygen reserves for the infants were almost exhausted last weekend, but supplies arrived by plane at the last minute.

The smallest baby weighed just 950 grams (2 pounds) at birth, and the lives of the infants in intensive care “hang by a thread,” Tejerina said.

No newborn at the hospital has died because of the oxygen shortage, and some relief was on the way, the doctor said. A convoy with 66 tons of liquid oxygen was expected Thursday in La Paz after three days of getting past barricades and angry protesters.

Even so, the blockades are having a wider impact on Bolivia’s beleaguered health system. Ambulances are sometimes prevented from reaching hospitals. The Health Ministry said 31 adults with COVID-19 have died since last Friday because of a lack of oxygen.

The government has described the situation as inhumane, blaming Morales supporters for causing even more misery at a time when the pandemic is inflicting a heavy toll on the country. But authorities are reluctant to use force to break up the blockades, recalling widespread bloodshed in clashes last year around the time when Morales resigned after an election marred by irregularities.

Morales, who had ruled for 14 years, left Bolivia after resigning and could face sedition and other charges if he returns. He was Bolivia’s first Indigenous president and remains a powerful influence in the country. His party, the Movement Toward Socialism, controls the congress.

Bolivia has reported nearly 4,000 deaths from COVID-19, though the real number is believed to be much higher. Last month, police in major cities said they had recovered the bodies of hundreds of suspected victims of the coronavirus from homes, vehicles and, in some instances, the streets. Hospitals filled up with patients, and funeral homes were besieged by grieving relatives looking to bury their dead.

About 60% of the medical workers at the Women’s Hospital became infected with the coronavirus and had to leave work, and many pregnant mothers have had to go from hospital to hospital, hoping to find space where they can give birth, Tejerina said.

On Thursday, 39-year-old Yola Quispe stood outside the gates of the hospital. She was heavily pregnant with twins. Quispe said the hospital had not yet confirmed whether a bed was available.

“I am already in pain and afraid that they will be born with low weight,” she said. Even so, “I don’t want my babies to stay in the hospital. There is no oxygen.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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